My friend lost her dad just days after Christmas. I’ve never been in a situation where I needed to console a friend after a parent’s death, so I was on new ground.
Am I talking too much or too little? Am I loving her in the way she needs to be loved or in the way I would want to be supported? Every move I made felt fragile.
I should have known kindness would be the balm my friend truly needed. It always is.
The night after the funeral, my friend’s son was driving home very late at night when he came across a car on the side of the road. A family from Honduras was returning from visiting relatives over the Christmas holiday. The father spoke English, but the wife and children did not. My friend’s son set the father up with a tow truck and then drove the rest of the family to a motel for the night.
The next morning, the family still had the issue of figuring out how to get the last 100 miles home. That’s when my friend stepped in. Or drove in, rather.
Without ever talking to the family, she went to the hotel and told them she was there to take them home. As she told me the story, she included how adorable the kids were and how grateful everyone was to see their modest trailer park home. I could see in Ann’s eyes that kindness was just the distraction she needed that day and the perfect reminder that everyone has hills to climb.
Mary Sermeta sent me another story that reminded me again of the importance of kindness during times of grief. She didn’t lose a parent — Mary lost her daughter.
“Christmas is always a difficult time for me. My daughter was killed in a drunk-driving crash in September 2001. She was a passenger on a motorcycle driven by a drunk driver.
"Besides Christmas, her birthday is Dec. 27. Most years I just want to hide under the covers until it passes. This year, I read an article about a women's shelter in Brainerd, Minn., that was asking for help to buy gifts for families who were staying there. I called them and was given a family of five to ‘adopt.’
"It was so healing and fun to shop for the four children and their mother. Pulling up to the shelter with a trunkful of toys and other things made me feel so happy! By helping this family, and having a lot of fun shopping for them, I found that my heartache was buffered by doing something nice for someone else.
"Next December, I won't dread the time but look forward to it. It does wonders to heal the heart and soul by helping another person.”
We want a magic pill to take our pain away. It doesn’t exist, but fortunately kindness does.
Turning our eyes to another person’s plight always helps us heal our own.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Athens, Ohio, with her three children and her husband, Ohio University Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.