Nicole J. Phillips
FARGO — There is something to be said about being in the right place at the right time. It feels fortuitous, almost like someone is watching out for us or that our interactions are predetermined. But instead of hoping to be in the right place at the right time, I long to be more aware of my surroundings. I want to be attentive enough to the people around me to know when they need a helping hand or an extra dose of generosity.
FARGO — I went to a conference earlier this month that was basically a two-day party for people who love kindness. Every night, a few folks would stand up and share a five-minute story about their favorite acts of kindness. I wish I would have had the foresight to record their messages. I would have had enough material to fill this column for the next three years. One woman never talked about her particular brand of kindness, but we all ended up being the recipients.
If it had rained one hot July day in 2011, I would not be writing this column. If I had felt too tired by my depression to take my kids to the city pool, I would not have a found my purpose. If one teenage mom in a shiny gold bikini had been too proud to accept the money I offered, I would not have discovered the power of kindness to transform a life.
I think 2 might be my favorite age. Not for my own kids, but for other people's kids. When my children were 2, I was caught up in diapers and crushed Goldfish crackers and constant laundry duty. Now, as a mom of school-age kids, I can sit back and see how adorable other people's toddlers are because I don't have to take care of them. I was sitting with my family at church the other day when a woman and her 2-year-old granddaughter sat down in front of us.
My brother saved a little boy's life once. The boy was swimming and got out too deep. No one saw him go under except my brother. It happened more than 30 years ago and I'm certain my brother never even stops to think about what would have happened if he hadn't been in that lake that day. Maybe time has also erased it from the memories of the little boy's family. But maybe not.
You know what's super fun? Putting a post on social media asking people to share their favorite kindness stories. Try it sometime. It's an immediate boost to your day and a great way to remember there are a lot of kind things happening quietly behind the scenes in our world. Here are a few stories people have shared with me recently.
The things that break our hearts are often the things that make us powerful. I am regularly reminding my children and their friends that someday they will have the opportunity to use each hurt to help another human. A dear friend shared the following story with me, and although I was sad for her younger self, I know it is these sorts of events that mold us into people who learn to love others well.
Just when Darcy Barry should have been enjoying her senior year of high school and looking forward to future adventures, life threw her a fast-pitch curveball. On Dec. 23, 1981, she was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a condition that causes tumors to form in the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Step by step, Darcy has gone on to live a full, beautiful life, getting married and even running her own day care business. Now, years after her own diagnosis, Darcy is again taking one step after another to support other people with NF.
When my son started bringing home information about his sixth-grade graduation, I thought it was cute. There would be a ceremony and a class party and even some donated prizes. Then I found out some of the parents were giving their children gifts to celebrate the milestone. I am all for using any excuse possible to celebrate life with ice cream, but in our house, gifts are reserved for birthdays and major life events.
FARGO — I'm a pretty outgoing person. There are certainly things that heighten my anxiety, but talking to strangers isn't one of them. I have to remember that just because my comfort zone covers a four ZIP code-area, not everyone is wired the same way. For some people, making eye contact and sending out a genuine smile is enough to get those tummy butterflies in a tizzy.