Just after moving to Ohio, I did something really weird. I was standing in line at the tiny neighborhood grocery store when a man came up behind me with a case of beer. He had to hold it because my groceries were taking up the whole conveyor belt, so I shoved some things forward and said to him, “That looks heavy, here, please set it down.” The man smiled, and with a thick accent said, “Thank you.”
But the man immediately saw that I was only trying to be kind, and in broken English, he said excitedly, “I want to buy something for you, too!” He began looking around frantically until his eyes settled on the cases of soda nearby. “This?” he asked. I smiled and said, “Sure, my husband loves Mountain Dew.”
I don’t know what prompted me to connect with that man that day in the grocery store. Maybe something in me knew that he was far from home and could use a friendly smile and a gesture of kindness. I’m glad I did it. It feels good to be kind. Even when it makes no sense at all.
A Fargo man sent me another story of a beautiful act of kindness he witnessed while at work.
“Nicole, I retired about seven years ago and after a few months of ‘doing retirement,’ I discovered that having something to do was very important in one’s older years. So I reverted back to what I was doing while in business school in Sioux City, Iowa, when I was 19, and I took a job at Osgood Hornbacher’s in the front end. When people ask me what I do, I often reply that I hand out suckers and kiss babies. I guess management calls it customer service. I just call it fun.
“Just recently, I was working a checkout line when an elderly gentleman came up to check out his few items of groceries. I think his total was less than $10. After several minutes of digging in his old worn-out black billfold he determined he had only $2. Realizing that he was short a few dollars, he quietly exited the checkout line and slowly walked out of the store.
“The checker began to cancel his order, when all of a sudden a lady in the next checkout line shouted out that she would pay for his groceries. So we restored his order and I quickly pursued the gentleman, who by now had left the store and was walking down the sidewalk. I managed to catch up to him, thanks to his slow gait, and gave him the groceries. He was surprised and smiled and said, ‘Thank you.’
“Upon returning to the store, I encountered the lady who had paid for the groceries, and I thanked her for being so kind to this elderly man. She smiled and said that paying it forward was such a pleasure and she was happy to do it.
“I returned to work with a good feeling about people. The elderly gentleman got his few groceries and benefited from the kindness of someone he did not know. The lady who paid for the groceries benefited from the pleasure of helping others in need. And the checker got to witness the generosity of someone paying it forward. In reality, at least four people benefited from one person’s paying it forward.
“I might finish with the fact that I have seen this happen many times in the store. Yes, the hearts of people living in this area are large and generous indeed.”
I’m glad to hear North Dakota Nice is alive and well in North Dakota and Ohio!
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 columns run every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.