My mom has lived in sunny Florida for a half dozen years. In that time, she has taken notice of a small roadside memorial.
Have you ever seen those? They always make me pause. The little cross, some plastic flowers, clearly left by someone who grieves the loss of a friend, child or spouse who died in a vehicle.
I see them and wonder what happened. How old was the person who died? How is the person left behind getting on with his or her life? Did everything change for everyone on that fateful day?
I think about it until something else catches my attention, an animal on the side of the road, a flashy billboard or the brake lights of the car in front of me. Then it’s gone. No more thought of the hearts that were broken because of a fatal car accident.
My mom is clearly the kind one in my family, because she continues to notice and pray time and time again as she passes the small roadside memorial near her home.
Usually well-tended with bright flowers, my mom saw the site hadn’t been visited since the start of COVID. The flowers were faded and the grass had grown up around the cross.
It broke my mom’s heart to know that someone wasn’t able to tend to something that was important to them. So my mom took matters into her own hands.
She hopped into her car with a scissors and gently cut back the overgrown grass. Then she placed new flowers from the dollar store in red, white and blue because the man who had died was a veteran.
Anyone driving by after that would see the care given to a loved one, never imagining it came from a woman who just wanted to help, in whatever way she could, in a time when it feels like we can do so little.
Kindness isn’t always the grand gestures. In fact, most of the time, this world is lit up by the many tiny things people do to honor the heart and the hurt of another.
A woman named Carolyn shared this story with me about the man who made a way for her.
"Every year I drive out to the cemetery to visit and place flowers on my daughter’s grave. One day when I approached the grave, I was stopped by a worker who told me I couldn’t visit the cemetery because they were working on the road. I was devastated. I told her I had come on my daughter’s birthday for the last 46 years to visit and place flowers on her grave. I just couldn’t miss this occasion.
"Another worker overheard me and yelled, ‘Let her through! I’ll make a path for her to drive in.’
"He went ahead of me and made a path and I drove right in. I had tears in my eyes from his kindness. I waved and mouthed ‘Thank you’ as he left me at the gravesite. What a special man to make a way for a mother to visit her daughter."
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com.
Nicole J. Phillips, a former Fargo television anchor, is a speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Aberdeen, S.D., with her three children and her husband, Saul Phillips, the head men's basketball coach at Northern State University. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.