Nicole J. Phillips
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:
A whole new language arises during the month of March in the house of a college basketball coach. We use words like "seed" and "bracket" in daily conversation, but even more curious, in my house at least, is the way my husband begins to use the word, "March." In the midst of a tight game on TV, Saul will yell out things like, "It's getting awfully Marchy in here!" or "It smells like March!" I've even heard him say, "I'm feeling Marchy." That one makes me a little nervous. It's sort of like living in a land of Smurfs. It's Smurftastic!
I am about to rat out my fellow columnist. In a good way, of course. Bob Lind has been writing the Neighbors column in the Fargo Forum since before I was born. Just kidding. But he has been writing it for quite a while, right around 20 years in fact. His words introduce us to the people, places and things that are right under our noses that we sometimes forget to see. He helps us solve mysteries, like Who is Olga? (Feb. 23) and charms us with delightful anecdotes like the Unexpected Valentine Moment in a fast-food parking lot (Feb. 14).
A strange thing is happening. The kids are fed, the dishes are done (sort of) and the couch begins calling my name. Actually, it's not the couch that's drawing me in, it's the television. Ahhh, Netflix. I've always admired the beauty of being able to watch what you want when you want it, but at the risk of sounding like an 80-year-old woman, I don't think most of what's on TV these days is worth watching. And certainly not with my kids in the room.
I went to visit my father recently. He had a stroke about 9 months ago and is now a permanent resident in an assisted living facility. He hasn't yet regained the use of the right side of his body, so he relies heavily on my step-mom and his nurses to tend to his every need. Every several months I have the opportunity to travel from Ohio to Wisconsin to see him. Each time I go, my heart breaks at the thought of leaving.
Remember the old National Enquirer magazine commercials? "Inquiring minds want to know. I want to know." I talk about the health benefits of giving and how awkward situations can be smoothed out with kindness, but the more opportunities I have to speak in public and get immediate feedback from those messages, the more I realize I'm getting it wrong. Well, maybe not totally wrong. It's just that I've been missing a key element in the equation. There are inquiring minds out there and they all want to know the same thing. "How do I deal with difficult people?"
My husband has banned me from Amazon. Not for shopping. For reading book reviews. Specifically, my book reviews. I wrote a book and because it was about kindness, I assumed everyone would love it. So when someone left me a two-star review, I cried. Seriously, stupid I know, but I boo-hooed for almost two days. One day for each star. The review wasn't even all that bad. Wanna see it? Of course you do. Here you go:
When I was in kindergarten, we had a whole lesson about what to do when you find a lost wallet. We acted out make-believe scenarios in which one of us would be the person who drops the wallet, one would be the person who finds it and another would be the officer at the police station. Funny, we never talked about taking it to the front counter of a store or leaving at the reception desk. We always took it straight to the police station.
I have a confession. People in uniform make me nervous. I'm fine with a doctor's coat or a fireman's jacket, but put on a police officer's crisp navy shirt and peaked dress cap in front of me, and I get a little shaky. Maybe I have a deeply hidden guilty conscience. I've never had a bad experience with authority; it's just that I feel like my very presence is under scrutiny once I see that badge.
I imagine, one day, when they're very old and can't get around quite as well as they do now, Gene Hanson and Darlene Jackson Hanson will sit next to each other and say, "Do you remember when...?" Only there is no way they will remember it all. Not because their minds will be failing, but because of the abundant life they've lived. Some people just live kindness. It's what they do. This couple falls into that category.