Nicole J. Phillips
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.
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.
When we talk about feeding the hungry, we usually talk about feeding people who literally don't have enough to eat. There are kids in my area who grab a bag of chips from the convenience store because it's cheaper than buying a sandwich and an apple. It's also cheaper than paying for the school lunch if they don't quite qualify for free meals. Yes, there is a desperate need to feed people in a physical sense. In a world with so much excess, it's tragic that anyone goes without the basic necessities like food.
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.
One man's trash is another man's treasure. Only what if it wasn't meant to be trash in the first place? Is it then called finders keepers? Not when kindness is involved. A woman in Ohio named Jessica was doing a little de-cluttering when she mistakenly put her daughters' savings bonds and some family photos into the recycling pile. She hadn't even realized her mistake until she received a phone call, and then a letter, from the man who found her belongings.
I was walking through Walmart the other day watching parents and their college students prepare for a new chapter in their lives. It occurred to me in the middle of the toothpaste aisle that it doesn't matter if your kid is going into kindergarten or college, letting them go is hard. We have to trust that the world will be good to our babies, and that's a hard thing to believe sometimes. My childhood friend shared a story about her daughter's school talent show. I'm hoping it will remind you, like it did for me, that we can count on kindness to see our kids through.