I am cancer-free! My husband and I wistfully joke that someday we’ll look back and say, “Remember that summer I had breast cancer?” It’ll be just one more little chapter in the story of our lives.
The words “thank you” don’t seem big enough to fit all of the gratitude in my heart. The Fargo Fercho YMCA sent me an enormous get-well-soon card, Hope Lutheran sent me a prayer shawl and ruby slippers, and the president (yes, the president) of North Dakota State University personally sent me flowers. Twice.
My kids started teasing me about getting “fan mail” because so many cards filled with words of love and encouragement arrived at our door.
I have never felt so cherished, lifted and protected, even in the midst of something as scary as cancer. Thank you.
But now summer is over and I’m restless, a little anxious even. I feel more called than ever to reach people with the message of kindness. It feels more like my ministry than ever before.
The problem is, after something as big and bold as cancer, kindness seems kind of plain.
Cancer was constantly evolving in my life and in the lives of the people around me. It was all new. I was seeing its many aspects for the first time, and I was caught up in the swirl of doing something dramatic.
The attention brought on by the cancer left me thinking, “Kindness? Who really wants to hear about kindness?”
And then we went on a family field trip to Pittsburgh. You might know it as the home of the Pirates and the Steelers, but Pittsburgh was also home to a man with multiple homemade sweaters, blue canvas sneakers and a motorized trolley.
“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was filmed in Pittsburgh.
Walking through the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, I got to see the sweater and the shoes and the characters from the Neighborhood of Make Believe. The 5-year-old girl inside of me came alive. All of a sudden, I saw Fred Rogers through eyes filled with both adult scrutiny and childlike wonder. I saw a man filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Rogers didn’t set out to be famous. He didn’t set out to save the world. He didn’t even set out to change people’s minds. He simply did what he loved to do and knew to be right. And after doing it day after day after day, people started listening.
Maybe you are passionate about something. Maybe you feel like pounding your head against the wall because people are not falling in line with your way of thinking. Or maybe you think your opportunity has passed you by.
Let me assure you, as long as there are people in this world for you to love, your opportunity has not come and gone.
In the words of Rogers, “You’re the only person in the whole world who’s exactly like you. Isn’t that wonderful? The same is true for every person you ever meet. Everyone is unique … and special.”
Do what you know to be right, day after day after day, whether anyone notices or not. Don’t worry about being exciting or important or well-known. Just be kind. Like Mister Rogers.
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 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 column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.