Kindness Reminds of Us of Meaning of Christmas

My friend Liz has been haunted for a year by the way she reacted to her husband’s random act of kindness last Christmas Eve. I’ll let her tell you about it:

“I love the holidays. I look forward to them every year. But inevitably, I am always amazed at the amount of stress I feel during this ‘joyous’ season. So much so, that I become like a Christmas robot. If I stop, I might forget something, or even worse, run out of time.

“So, like most, I constantly shop, hide gifts, wrap gifts, plan meals, make crafts, try to keep up with the advent calendar, shop more, etc. Usually by Christmas Eve I’m so exhausted that I’m going through the motions and hoping for the best.

“Last year, after finishing some last-minute shopping, dressing my family in our ‘holiday best,’ and preparing food for Christmas Eve dinner, it was time for church.

“Knowing I would soon be singing ‘Silent Night’ in a candlelit sanctuary truly calmed me, although not enough. Still, in the back of mind I knew that I had kids to put to sleep, gifts to wrap, breakfast items to prepare and many other Santa’s helper duties to complete before dawn.

“Midway through the service, a man joined. He wore a hooded sweatshirt and carried a large backpack. It seemed as though this was his home, at least for the duration of the service.

“After the service, I smiled at him and hoped he was able to get some refreshments before he went on his way. I noticed my husband talking to him but didn’t think much of it. After all, my husband talks to everyone.

“A few minutes later, my husband introduced me to the man and informed me that he was going to stay in our guest lodge that night. For some reason, my first emotion was anger. How could my husband put me on the spot like this?

“My next emotion was fear. What if he caused harm to my children? What if he stole from us? I also felt inconvenienced. Would I have to share my family holiday with this stranger? At what point would he leave? And where would we take him?

“In the heat of the moment, I pulled my husband to the side and tried to calmly and discreetly express my concerns through gritted teeth. However, my husband was determined to give this man a place to sleep on Christmas Eve.

“I begrudgingly got into the car with my husband, children and our new guest. During the long ride to our country home, I went through the list of things that I was going to say to my husband when we were alone.

“Meanwhile, he and this man quoted Scripture, spoke of Jesus and maybe felt the true meaning of Christmas (I wouldn’t have known because I had abandoned the true meaning of Christmas weeks ago).

“Once we were home and our guest was settled into our lodge, I distracted myself with Christmas preparations. Soon, I heard my in-laws pull into the driveway. They came to take our guest to a hotel. A combination of guilt and relief consumed me. Why didn’t I think of that?

“The next day, Christmas went on as usual. My kids were unfazed by the previous night’s events and were overjoyed with the many presents Santa brought. A mixture of emotions was still swirling inside which left me feeling anxious and sad. I smiled and then cried when no one was looking.

“It has taken me almost a year to realize so many lessons from that night. If I don’t stop, I might forget to see things like my husband does. He views the world with purity, kindness and light.

“I might forget that Jesus shows himself in many forms. He’s not concerned about whether our shopping is done, gifts are wrapped or if the advent calendar is on the third or 22nd day. He’s concerned about how we react in moments of need. To him, it’s not about the kind of car we drive, but rather about who we give a ride to.

“If he ever shows himself to me again, I hope to act with more kindness. Luckily, I’ve got a great role model in my husband, who, in spite of my awful Christmas hospitality, still sees good in me every day.”

Liz has been given the ability to see a difficult situation from a new perspective. It’s an incredible gift that is worth taking an entire year to unwrap.

I hope you receive gifts that are equally as valuable this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

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.

Kindness Eases Loneliness for Those No Longer With Us

A woman I haven’t seen for 15 years just emailed me out of the blue.

Kris and I met at the wedding of a mutual friend, and although we barely knew each other then, and certainly not at all now, Kris had something on her heart that she just knew I’d understand. Kris is lonesome.

Our mutual friend, Heather, died of cancer nine years ago this month. This weekend, in fact. Today. Nine years ago, today.

Kris knew that she could write me and I would immediately understand what she meant when she said she was “homesick” for Heather.

We all have seasons of “homesickness” for those we have lost, but it sure makes me feel better knowing there is someone out there who loved her just as much as I did and still misses her as much as I do. It seems as if, together, we can keep a piece of her alive.

Debbie Tight, a Fargo woman who lost her son several years ago, wrote to me recently about how much she appreciates the way her son’s friends still work to keep his spirit alive and how it continues to act as a balm to heal her pain.

“Our youngest son, Tom, died suddenly and unexpectedly on May 18, 2001. He was 26 at the time and had type 1 diabetes since he was 16. October 11, 2014 would have been his 40th birthday. It was also the day of the annual Step Out for Diabetes Walk at the Scheels Arena here in Fargo. My husband, Bob, and I participated in the walk, and in preparation sent out emails to family and friends requesting donations to the American Diabetes Association. Since Tom’s contemporaries are all near or at 40 years of age and in their ‘earning years,’ we decided to include some of them in our request for donations to the ADA.

The day of the walk arrived and we were at the arena waiting for it to begin when a good friend of Tom’s who lives in West Fargo walked up to us, with a crutch in one arm and his one year old son in the other. He had just had knee surgery and couldn’t participate but wanted to let us know that he was thinking about Tom, especially on that day.

Another dear friend said she couldn’t make the walk, but sent her 90 year old mother and her sister in her place. Just before the walk started, our friend rushed in saying someone in the back needed to talk to us right away. To our great surprise, there stood Tom’s best friend from Minneapolis and another friend who had flown in from Oklahoma – all to walk with us and remember Tom. We were blown away by their love, kindness and generosity.

Between the morning walk and an afternoon Bison football game, my husband and I scurried around, ordered sandwiches and a cake and had everyone over to our home in north Fargo for supper.

The group included all of the above plus several other friends. We talked, laughed, reminisced and had a wonderful time. This is a day we will NEVER forget – a great tribute to our son, Tom, and much love expressed by dear friends.”

If you are having a season of “homesickness” for someone special, I hope you pick up the phone, send out an email, or do whatever you can to reach out to someone else who shared your love. That simple act of kindness has the power to soften the heartache for both of you.

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.

Believe!

There is a certain magic to Christmas that you only get to experience if you have small children. Sure, it requires a lot of extra work to help Santa come to life each year, but for me, it’s also part of what makes Christmas so sparkly and fun.

We’ve been walking the tightrope of Believe/Don’t Believe for several years in the Phillips’ household. Yesterday, it all came to a head. I made a comment about Santa and caught my 3rd grade son rolling his eyes. What?! What is this?! Are you saying you don’t BELIEVE???? Again, more eye rolling. I turned to his big sister who just shrugged her shoulders in that way she does when she doesn’t want to disappoint me.

“Okay,” I said. “Maybe I help Santa along, but the Tooth Fairy is totally real!” My little Charlie replied back with, “Mom, I felt your arm under my pillow like three years ago.”

In the end, we decided that Santa (and his elf) will continue to make an appearance in our home (and continue to bring presents!) as long as the big kids don’t ruin it for the little one. Ben’s only 4. I’m not ready to give this gig up yet, and if it takes a little bribery and some not-so-subtle messages from the elf, so be it.

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