Nicole J. Phillips
FARGO — My friend, Tania, has been going through a whirlwind year of transition. One year ago, she sold her dream house, the one she had designed, built and lovingly decorated eight years prior. She and her husband felt a call on their lives to downsize. Even with two kids still in the house, they knew it was time to let go of the big and the beautiful and focus instead on living on less. This change of lifestyle means that her husband will get to retire much earlier than expected, so they took the plunge, sold their house and bought a smaller place to renovate.
Does what I do matter? Have you ever thought that to yourself? Perhaps you've been in the checkout lane when the cashier asks if you'd like to donate a dollar to end world hunger. Or maybe you've dropped off old towels and blankets so they could be sent to some area of devastation overseas. Most recently, I was asked to donate bottles of water to the hurricane victims. Does the little bit we do for others make a difference? It's hard to know when the solution is slow coming and we never actually see the people benefitting.
FARGO — In my family, instead of Thanksgiving turkey, we pull out of the all-holiday ham. We will continue pulling it out for leftovers for the next week, starting today: RAK Friday. Oh, I'm sorry. Did you think it was called Black Friday? Nah, that's so 1990s. You know, when people loved standing in line overnight to get the new superfly boombox with detachable speakers? Or pulling a total stranger's hair to get her out of the way when she was reaching for the last Cabbage Patch doll? Okay, maybe that all happened in the '80s, but you get my point.
I have written more than 300 stories for this column, but I'd have many more to share if it weren't for one tiny phrase that keeps repeating itself in a variety of forms. "I don't want to toot my own horn." "I hate to brag." "If I get my rewards on Earth, I won't get them in Heaven." "I was taught to give in private." Now I love the humble heart behind this sentiment, but I learned something recently that has changed the way I think about those responses.
FARGO — My daughter wants me to run a half-marathon with her. Not just any race, she wants to run the Walt Disney World half marathon. I suppose since she's 13, she will want me to pay for it too. It all sounds a little goofy to me. (I'm sorry. I just couldn't resist.) I told her that as a 42-year-old non-runner, there was no way I could convince my body to move briskly for 13.1 miles. That was when she reminded me that my own mother ran her first full marathon on her 60th birthday. Okay, point taken.
If I were left to my own devices, there is no way you would be reading this kindness column right now. I know nothing about printing a newspaper or scheduling delivery routes. I know even less about how the internet works and how to get the newspaper on a home computer. The only way I'm able to get out this message of kindness is because of the kindness of others who excel in areas beyond my expertise.
When I think about the very first acts of kindness I can recall, I think about my mom. I remember her teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) in our small town. How scary it must have been for her students to move to a new country and not know how to communicate. My mom felt their apprehension and gave them her language and her heart. In exchange we often had beautiful handmade gifts or delicious treats in our home that spoke of deep cultural roots. Sarah Tachon, grew up, just like me, watching her mom live out kindness. She still remembers one story in particular.
It's the question that guides most of my parenting decisions: Am I teaching my kids to be kind? I don't want them to be doormats or people who bend to the will of others even when it's dangerous or unhealthy. But I do hope they find a good balance in life and lead with kindness whenever it's possible.
I got to spend the last week traveling around the state of Wisconsin talking about my favorite thing: kindness. Unfortunately, going from small town to small town meant I had to do a lot of my least favorite thing: driving. I was feeling too frugal to spend the extra $5 on cruise control for my rental car, so for eight days, I kept one eye on my lead foot and the other eye on the road. I was on the second lag of my trip when I started lamenting in my head about my lack of ability to teleport.
Anytime is a good time for kindness, but receiving it is especially sweet when you feel like you've got nothing left to give. Proud dad, Scott Wright, who lives near the Wisconsin/Iowa border, and his wife still remember one particular act of kindness that came when they needed it most.