Nicole J. Phillips
There is a woman in my town who does a lot of good. I mean A LOT. She and her husband have been blessed with a successful local business, and they are constantly pouring into the community. The thing is, they do it so quietly, unless you're really paying attention and perhaps digging a little, you'd never know the identities of the "anonymous" donors. I happen to take a special interest in kindness and those who are radically loving others, both openly and incognito. I remember the kind things I hear people doing because I want to try out their ideas. Their kindness is contagious.
I packed a bag lunch for my second grader this morning. Actually, he packed it for himself, but I stood guard making sure there was something other than sugar in his noontime meal. The last thing that kid needs right now is sugar. Ben is pumped so full of end-of-the-year adrenaline that I say a little prayer for his teacher each day as I usher my 8-year-old out the door. Field trips, final chapters during story time, throwing away old crayons and crumpled papers ... there is something special about the end of the school year.
Danette Jensen lives in Goodridge, Minn., about 70 miles from the Canadian border. She and her husband run DJ's K9 Country, a boarding facility with more than 20 kennels and a large training room. I guess you could say Danette is dog crazy. She is certainly an expert in the field. She has a radio show and people call in with their canine quandaries.
I have yet to meet someone who says, "Nope. I'm not a kind person and I have no intention of changing." We might agree that we have a little work to be done in the kindness area, but generally people seem to think they are doing a pretty good job of treating others well. In a study of 100 young people with gang affiliations, the kids rated their level of kindness as "high" and cited evidence such as, "I help my mom carry in the groceries." It's rare when we can both see our deficiencies and are also willing to do the work hard of changing ourselves for the better.
They say there are ties that bind, things that happen in our lives that leave us forever connected and intertwined with others. But what happens when decades begin to deteriorate our communication with those people? As Caryl Kiser from southeastern Ohio shares, those ties not only continue to hold, they grow stronger with each knot of kindness.
Our lives often intersect for a reason, but isn't it amazing when we they do, and we actually notice? Two men, one from Twin Valley, Minn., and the other from Loveland, Colo., have never met in person, but their paths crossed 20 years ago, leading to a beautiful act of kindness today. Here is their story: "In October 1998, I was traveling to Colorado for an elk hunt. Each member of our group brought along a significant amount of cash to pay for food, horse rental, licenses, etc.
I was standing in the shower sobbing. With the fan on and the water running, it was the only place in the house I could hide until my torrent of pain had been released. Never before had I needed to expel so many emotional toxins from my system. And never have I needed to again. But back in May of 2015, I was walking through a breast cancer diagnosis, and I was scared.
What feelings arise when you read the name Donald Trump? Does it create a knot in your stomach? Do you feel pride in our president? Or are you feeling numb to politics in general? There is a young woman in my town who is one of the kindest, most gentle people I have ever met. I got to know her several years ago when she was my son's preschool teacher. She has long dark hair and is a stunning beauty, but I would venture to guess that what strikes people first when they meet her is her smile. It's soft and welcoming and holds no air of judgement.
People often ask me for ideas about doing random acts of kindness. They want something that doesn't cost a lot or is perhaps free. Something that will be impactful, but not too time consuming. Something that the whole family can be involved in or an act that will create a bond with a difficult coworker. A quick Google search shows no fewer than 16,000,000 results for "ideas for random acts of kindness." Ideas are out there. We have created the wheel over and over and over again. So instead of telling people what to do, I tell people to slow down and listen.
I went to visit a friend in prison a few weeks ago. It was the first time I had been in the belly of a correctional facility since I was a child. Back then, I went with my mom to visit her husband. This time, I got to escort a young friend to see his mom. Two different prisons, one for men and one for women, decades between those experiences, and yet my eyes saw the same thing now that they did when I was a kid: people who just plain look like people.