We’re coming upon a season of great celebration. My mailbox is full of pictures of fresh young faces excited to begin a new chapter of life. You can see by the twinkle in their eyes that they are looking forward to saying goodbye to cafeteria lunches and study halls.
Parents are frantically sweeping out garages and hunting down folding tables in preparation for the parties.
But that’s not all. As soon as we get past graduation, we head straight into the peak wedding month. What did I say? A season of celebration!
I happen to love parties—when I get to be in control of them. I’m a bit of an introverted extrovert, which means I’m happy to be surrounded by people, but I don’t want to just stand there talking. Or maybe that makes me an extroverted introvert. Either way, I want to be the person greeting guests or passing out punch or grilling burgers on the back porch. OK, not the grilling part. I hate to cook.
Anyway, it makes me very nervous and uncomfortable to walk into a social situation without a specific purpose. Perhaps you can relate. It doesn’t have to be a graduation party or mammoth wedding. It can be a training seminar or a school concert or really anything that requires me to mingle before the main event.
As I love to remind my kids, whenever there’s a problem, kindness is the solution. But how could kindness possibly be incorporated into this scenario? It’s not like I’m going to bring party gifts to pass out to 100 of my closest strangers.
Several years ago, I stumbled upon some incredible advice while watching a teaching DVD called “Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl” by Lysa TerKeurst.
I found one nugget of wisdom so true, so powerful and so kind that I’ve implemented it into every social situation since.
Here it goes. Maybe it’ll work for you, too.
Let’s say you walk into a party and start feeling overwhelmed because everyone is wearing a dress and you’re wearing jeans. Or perhaps it looks like everyone is there with a date and you’re single. Or maybe it seems as if everyone knows everyone and you know no one. That’s when you begin the hunt.
Look for the person in the room who looks more uncomfortable than you. Often they will be in the corner and have a wide-eyed “deer in the headlights” sort of look about them. Walk up, smile and introduce yourself.
I find that I am immediately empowered by this small, subtle act of kindness.
All of a sudden, I have a job. I am “the kind one” who is there to help other people have a good time. I seem to instantly forget that 30 seconds ago I was feeling terrified, self-conscious and out of place.
I remember being at a church function for my kids a few summers ago. We had just moved into town the month before, so when I walked into the banquet hall, there were no familiar faces. Standing alone next to a table was a woman who was quite a bit older than me. It was very evident that she was not in her comfort zone.
While it initially appeared that we had nothing in common, I quickly found out she was the guardian of her grandchildren, and that our kids were in the same grade and would be attending the same school in the fall. I gained a new friend that day, simply by walking over and saying “hi,” and we both had a better time than we thought we would.
Even if you’re a person who relishes the social scene, I hope you’ll give this kindness challenge a try. Whether you’re a wallflower or the life of the party, it always feels good to help others.
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.