I got my first cellphone on Christmas morning, 2003. I was eight months pregnant, and if my water broke in the middle of Piggly Wiggly, my husband wanted to know about it. I thought I could just go to the customer service desk and ask them to call him, but he wasn’t in favor of that plan.
I was certain this whole portable telephone thing was just a passing fad. I didn’t want to waste my money knowing it would eventually fail.
Well, the cellphone fad hasn’t passed quite yet, so when my 12-year-old daughter came to me asking for a phone, I did what I always do when I’m not quite sure what to do: I stalled. I told her that when she had saved up enough money for the phone of her choice, I would pay for the monthly service plan.
I figured she’d be a junior or senior in high school by the time she got the money rounded up. It’s hard to come up with a lot of cash when you’re a preteen without a job. Jordan, being the resourceful one, starting stashing away every bit of her allowance, gift money and cat-sitting paychecks.
A week ago, she walked into my office. “Guess what, Mom? I have enough money!”
It had been less than six months. How did that happen? Off we went to the AT&T store.
Jordan and I sat nervously across the table from the sales woman in the royal-blue shirt. I had decided to upgrade my phone since I was in need of more memory. I was panicky about getting everything transferred from the old device to the new one. Jordan, meanwhile, was doing everything she could not to reach over and rip open the box holding her new prized possession. I think she might have been sitting on her hands in an effort to contain herself.
I started joking about this huge rite of passage we were about to walk through.
“You’re like the ear-piercer of my generation,” I said to the 30-year-old woman helping us. She looked at me quizzically until I went on. “You know, we begged our moms to take us to the mall and get our ears pierced just like all of our friends? Or was that just me?”
The sales woman laughed and said, “Oh, yeah! My mom took me to Claire’s Boutique, and the minute I sat in the chair and realized it was going to hurt, I changed my mind. By that time, it was too late, because I already had one ear done.”
Yep. That’s the rite of passage I was talking about. So glad to know I wasn’t alone in that trip down memory lane.
Jordan and I left the store with two shiny new cellphones and one gently used phone (my old one) that was looking for a new home. I called another 12-year-old I know who has also been desperately saving for a phone and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
The next day, with my daughter and her friend standing side-by-side, I handed over my old phone. As I did, I said just one thing: “This is not a cellphone. It is a vessel for kindness. For the past two years, this phone has never, ever been used to yell at someone, text an angry message or embarrass anyone. It doesn’t know how to do that. It only knows how to be kind. Please don’t teach it how to be mean. Please, keep it as a vessel of kindness.”
That sweet girl looked at me wide-eyed and swore she would honor my wishes. Then my daughter added, “I’m going to make my phone a vessel for kindness, too, Mom. I like that.”
If cellphones are indeed here to stay, then the only power we should give them is the power to make the world a kinder place.
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.