I learned something recently about my 13-year-old son. It turns out the tough guy has a deep streak of nostalgia.

Charlie spent the first 10 years of his life in Fargo. At the end of second grade, we moved him to Ohio. Five years later, we’re back in the Dakotas, this time in South Dakota. Charlie has been asking me since the day the car pulled into Aberdeen when we could make the three-hour trip to Fargo.

I finally took some time off from house hunting to make it happen.

“So where to you want to go?” I asked, thinking I’d be dropping him off at a friend’s house for the weekend.

“Hornbacher's, the Sky Walk and the Longfellow playground.” He railed off the answers like they’d been sitting on his tongue for days.

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Hornbacher's is a grocery store. It’s special to us, because we used to go there way too often for donuts.

Longfellow Elementary has installed a “Buddy Bench” for kids who need a friend to play with at recess. Special to The Forum
Longfellow Elementary has installed a “Buddy Bench” for kids who need a friend to play with at recess. Special to The Forum

The Sky Walk is a Charlie-Mom thing. When he was a preschooler, every morning we would go to the downtown YMCA and then I’d take him for a walk through the sky walk. We would make our way across the three-block area by playing Eye Spy, seeing how fast we could run in the open hallways and eating free cookies from the bank.

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The final place Charlie wanted to visit was the Longfellow playground. Longfellow was Charlie’s elementary school. As the principal, Mr. H says, “Once a Lion, always a Lion.” Charlie has taken that to heart and had no problem showing his little brother around the playground as if he owned the place.

A stately lion statue is a reminder of all the people who work hard to make Longfellow Elementary School in Fargo a special place. Special to The Forum
A stately lion statue is a reminder of all the people who work hard to make Longfellow Elementary School in Fargo a special place. Special to The Forum

I noticed evidence of the kindness I remember at the school and was proud to see they had installed a “Buddy Bench” for kids who need a friend to play with at recess. There is also a stately lion statue that stands as a reminder of all the people who work hard to make Longfellow a special place.

The coolest kindness (in my opinion) though is a project started by first graders and their fifth-grade buddies. Together, they designed and printed colorful 3D coins. Each coin is numbered, and people who are lucky enough to find one are asked to do a “not so random” act of kindness and report back using the social media tag #100KindLions. Then the coin is “recycled” by leaving it for another person to find.

Students at Longfellow Elementary School embraced kindness in a variety of ways. Special to The Forum
Students at Longfellow Elementary School embraced kindness in a variety of ways. Special to The Forum

Originally, the coins were left on the playground for kids and community members to find. Those coins have been turned into acts of kindness like a lemonade stand for charity and free babysitting for a church retreat. One girl named Liv even donated 10 inches of her hair to Locks of Love!

I stared at the ground the entire time Charlie and Ben were running around that playground, but I didn’t find any coins. I think that’s a good thing because it means the kids’ project is working. The coins are all in the hands of people who are working hard to spread kindness one act at a time.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

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.