A man came to my house the other day to repair all of those little things in a home that are too difficult to fix myself, yet not so difficult that they involve cutting my losses and just moving.
He actually came the first time to convince the mice who had moved into my basement that they’d be better off finding a new place to make their winter nests. While he was here, he mentioned that he used to build houses, but left that life to instead chase away bats and mice as an exterminator. He said he still enjoys puttering around houses and fixing things.
Fixing things? Big mistake mentioning that, Mr. Exterminator.
Before he knew it, I had talked him into coming back 10 days later and pressed a laundry list of to-do things into his hand so he’d be able to return with all the right tools.
Now, let me just stop and say I noticed something special about this man right away. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was a certain light, a certain joy and peace that seemed to radiate from him.
When he came back to fix the roof, the faucet and recheck the mice, I noticed that light again. And again, I couldn’t put my finger on it.
We sat down at the kitchen table to settle up the bill at the end of the day. As I began writing the check, I asked, “What’s the date?”
“Nov. 4,” he said. “My brother called me this morning to remind me.”
Huh? I looked at him quizzically, because none of my family members call me to remind me what day it is (although perhaps they should sometimes).
He went on to tell me that three years ago, on Nov. 4, he gave his brother one of his kidneys. His brother calls him every year on that day to tell him thank you.
I had never met anyone who’d been a donor before, so I went on to ask the usual questions. Did it hurt? Is your brother OK?
He said it didn’t hurt and his brother was fine. Then he said something that shed great light on this inner peace I saw radiating from his eyes.
He said his brother was really sick and desperately needed the kidney, but that being the one allowed to make that donation changed his own life, perhaps even more than his brother’s.
He said making that decision forced him to evaluate how he was living. He found some things he didn’t like and decided to change them. He quit his job and started doing what he loved: chasing little creatures from people’s homes. He stays busy enough to put a daughter through college, but he also has time to go pheasant hunting for a week, and do odd jobs just because he feels like it.
He said his life may be shortened by a year or two without a second kidney, but that’s OK because he’s living each day to the fullest. He said he sees every sunrise and every sunset with new eyes and a new sense of wonder. He appreciates the beauty in this world that he was too busy or too bothered to notice before.
As I listened to him, I couldn’t help but think of you, reading this column, and my weekly attempt to convince people that life is better with kindness. This man is a walking testimony for what I’m trying to get through to the world: when you help others, you help yourself. One act of kindness, in this case, one kidney, bought his freedom from the daily grind.
I handed my insightful handyman the check. He smiled and said, “I’m gonna spend this money frivolously. I’m going to buy a ukulele. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play.”
I laughed and said it was the best money I’d ever spent.
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 also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.