One Special Friend to Show Kindness

Have you ever felt like everyone was in on a joke except you?

I’m not sure if I should feel angry or sad, but deep in my heart, I’m feeling a strange combination of dark emotions that are all jumbled together and desperately striving to find the light.

And it’s all the result of a third-grade birthday party.

My son goes to school with a little girl whose momma is in prison. Through a course of odd events that I often seem to find myself in, I’ve become pretty close with this little girl. She is a bubbly, blond-haired wisp of a child, slight in stature but bold in personality. I thank God she’s so consistently upbeat and outspoken, because I think those are the traits that just might save her from being eaten up by this world.

When I found out my young friend was turning 9, I did what I do with all little girls whose mommas are in prison. I threw her a pizza party to celebrate her special day.

Birthday girl and I went to Walmart, where we found Monster High plates, cups and party favors. Then we came back to my house and sat at the kitchen table, where we carefully penned 10 Monster High invitations, one for every girl in her class. We filled zebra-print goody bags (24 of them so there would be enough if little brothers and sisters showed up). Her grandma ordered a huge Monster High cake, and we anxiously awaited Birthday Party Day.

The day of the party finally arrived. We ate pizza, played games, blew out birthday candles and opened presents. The hour and a half came and went before I realized something everyone else probably already knew: None of the kids were coming.

I thought it was odd that only one classmate returned an RSVP, but I brushed it off.

I couldn’t brush off the fact that only the third-grade teacher and Birthday Girl’s one best friend came to the party.

People are busy. I get that. But ALL of them? Every girl in the class, except one? I have a little trouble believing that.

I asked the teacher what I was missing. Clearly there was something going on that I didn’t know about.

As my heart started breaking, the teacher gently explained that perhaps the girls never even showed their parents the invite because they didn’t want to come to this particular party. She trailed off sadly with, “You know how it is …”

Oh God. Yes. I do know how it is.

I went home, took a warm bath and cried. I cried for so many reasons, but mainly I cried because I saw so much of myself in that outcast little girl.

And then, as my husband sat snuggling me in a fuzzy blanket, I remembered something else the teacher said to me.

She said, “You don’t need a lot of friends in this world. Just one.”

That’s right. That’s when kindness truly shines its brightest. When the world seems dark and then you have that one true friend who shows up to your birthday party, and all of sudden, you couldn’t care less if anyone else in the world even existed.

I pray that we can all teach our kids to be kind to the outcasts, but until that day comes, I pray that we each have one special person in our lives who shows us great kindness when we need it most.

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 is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.

Mouse Hunters

The last — LAST thing I wanted to do today was call an exterminator, but when my husband mentioned this morning that for the past two nights he’s been hearing “scurrying” in the walls after I’ve gone to bed, I called.

Actually, calling was the second step. The first step was sending out a frantic plea on Facebook asking other moms who I should call.

This is when it’s frustrating living in a new town. In Fargo, I’d just call one of the neighbors and they would magically make all of my problems disappear. Being new to Ohio, I have to think a bit… or rely on my virtual neighbors on the internet.

The Facebook moms came through big-time with the name of a guy from Prater’s Wildlife Control. The owner arrived within an hour, used his iPhone to show me a picture of the mouse droppings so I wouldn’t have to actually crawl into the walls to see them myself, then proceeded to lay out a plan on how to get the mice  out of the house and make them stay out.

Then, just for fun, he also checked the roof for bat droppings to see if we had any of those. For the record, we do not. Thank you, God.

Up and down ladders, in and out doors, this guy worked his tail off — with my four year old in tow. Yep. He he took my very interested son on his own little version of “Mouse Hunters.” The kindness this man showed my son made my day– and Benjamin’s day, too.

So, no, I’m not happy I had to call an exterminator today. But I am thrilled I got a chance to see another way someone choses to extend kindness.

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Sometimes Kindness Means Extending the Olive Branch

I am the youngest of 50 cousins on my dad’s side of the family. I have several hundred second-cousins, but please don’t ask me to name more than 10 of them.

The last family reunion was held at a park in Wisconsin and was a bit of a community event. It’s always hard to tell who is really part of the family and who just showed up because they smelled the grill. Throw on a name tag. We’ll feed you.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I recently realized my dad has a brother I never even knew existed.

My dad, being the second-youngest of 11 children, has seen too many of his siblings pass away. He is in his 70s, and I think he really longs for both connection and reconciliation at this point in his life.

I’ve written before about the role kindness plays in serendipitous events. Well, three times over the course of just a few weeks in three very unusual places, my dad happened to be talking to people who took notice of his last name.

One was at a bait-and-tackle shop. One was at an eye doctor, and one was while he was just out taking a walk.

All three times, the people said, “Locy?” (It’s the opposite of high tide, pronounce it like low-sea) “Locy? Do you know Wayne Locy?”

“That’s my brother!” my dad replied. Through those three conversations, my dad learned about his brother’s health, children and general well-being.

During the third conversation, my dad found out his brother has a daughter who is an electrician. It just so happened my dad needed an electrician, so he called her up.

The day Wayne’s daughter was supposed to show up at my dad’s house to do some electrical work, she brought along a surprise.

Her dad.

My dad was shocked but so incredibly grateful to get a chance to sit and visit again with his long-lost brother. He said it was an amazing reunion.

I asked my dad whatever happened between him and Wayne, why they had a falling out in the first place. His answer was heart-breaking. He said, “I don’t know. They stopped showing up to things we invited them to, so we stopped inviting them.”

That was it.

No major argument or disturbance. Just two people on two different sides of the fence who both probably got a little offended once by something someone did and didn’t even mean to do and then they just slowly stopped talking. Forever.

Uff da. It knocks the wind right out of me.

Let me ask you this: How easily are you offended? How difficult would it be to pick up the olive branch and extend it, even if it meant you had to apologize for something you didn’t even do? What sort of love and light would it let into your life if you took the risk?

Sometimes being kind means turning the other cheek, picking up the phone, and simply calling the right electrician.

You can wait for a string of serendipitous events, or you can create them on your own with kindness.

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 is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.