Nicole J. Phillips
I really should have kept a list of all the people who helped me during my battle with breast cancer. It would be filled with the names of family and friends who delivered meals and picked up kids and sent cards. But it would also be filled with the names of strangers who helped me get through each day after my surgery when I was desperate to return to my routine. Friendly people seemed to come out of nowhere when I needed them most. Just like the two boys who helped my friend Teresa when she was dealing with a painful rib injury.
One of the great lessons cancer taught me was the importance of getting my thought-life in order. There are way too many things in this world that could go wrong. If we allow ourselves to think whatever thought pops into our heads, we risk being dragged into a black hole of despair. But how do we replace those negative thoughts with something more positive? What do we think about instead? Kindness.
"Whoa! People work this early in the morning?" That was my first-grade son's reaction as we passed a garbage truck recently at 5:30 a.m. We were heading out on a family vacation. The men in the truck were hustling in the rain to pick up bin after bin of trash. "Yes. And I'm grateful they do. How about you?" I responded. That led to a brief conversation about many other things people do to earn money to support themselves and their families.
Every once in awhile, Saul and I play "Who would you most like to have dinner with?" Jimmy Buffett is high on Saul's list. Mother Teresa is high on mine. I imagine we're both out of luck. A little boy in Fargo will long remember a recent meal he got share thanks to a side helping of kindness. His grandfather, Harvey Laabs, sent me this story.
Twenty years ago this month, people along the Red River in Minnesota, North Dakota and Southern Manitoba experienced the worst flood of the area since 1826. Homes and businesses were destroyed. Lives were swept up in a torrent of emotional and financial ruin. An entire geographic area was collectively exhausted. Yet, when the river finally returned to its banks, along with a path of destruction, we discovered a trail of kindness. Laura Carley of Fargo vividly remembers the smell that permeated the house when her basement fuel tank filled with flood water.
At this very moment, if all has gone well, I am on an airplane with my three children heading back to Fargo. It was the kindness of an event planner who first gave the idea wings, and the kindness of many other community members who made it take flight. Saul and I lived in Fargo for 10 years before moving to Ohio, where he now leads the Ohio University Men's Basketball team. Saul has gotten to make a return visit, but the kids and I haven't been back since we moved away three years ago. Boy are we all excited to see our favorite people, places and things!
I was at a Weight Watchers meeting this morning. Don't ask. The wheels fall off the bus pretty quickly when you live in a family who loves to celebrate track meets, baseball games and good grades with ice cream. Easter baskets don't seem to help the problem. Anyway, I was sitting in the meeting listening to the celebrations and challenges the other members were sharing when one woman brought up an interesting predicament. "Clearly my husband doesn't understand this whole weight loss thing," she started, "because he keeps buying me chocolate."
I didn't think time travel was possible until I was sitting at a track meet the other night. It was my daughter's very first meet. I thought it would be my very first meet too. I was told ahead of time that it would be a test of endurance — not for the student athletes, but for their parents. In anticipation of the four-hour event, I brought along my chair-in-a-bag, a football and a thermal tote full of snacks for my younger boys. I found the perfect spot in the sun to settle in and watch the action. I wasn't sitting there 10 minutes when I started having flashbacks.
My friend who is a teacher showed me a very funny poster. It has pictures of two owls. One owl is looking wise and well-tailored in his round glasses and cap. The other owl looks like a deranged lunatic with a torn shirt and frayed feathers. The caption on the poster says, "Teachers at the beginning of the school year" and "Teachers at the end of the school year." As a classroom volunteer, I've had the privilege of seeing students up close all year long. I have to say, when spring is in the air, something strange happens to those little bodies.
How is it that things can look so drastically different based on our ever-changing outlook? Like the little park bench that's tucked along a pebble path and surrounded by colorful blossoms. It looks so quaint and inviting, until that becomes the place where your boyfriend chooses to dump you. Then it looks rusty and worn out and covered in bird poop. Some things that are beautiful become less captivating, but as Diana Anderson of West Fargo found out, it also works in reverse. A nice evening can become magical when kindness enters the room. Here's her story: