Kindness and Kids Turn Around a Sour Situation

“Once a Lion, always a Lion. Come back and visit us anytime.” Those are the words the principal of my kids’ school said the day we left Fargo.Once a Lion, always a Lion.

We lived in north Fargo, so two of my kids had the privilege of going to Longfellow Elementary. They were Longfellow Lions, and according to Mr. Henrickson, the school principal, they are still part of the pride.

Just before we moved, a beautiful fiberglass lion was presented to the school. It sat proudly by the playground regally watching over our children.

This lion statue at Longfellow Elementary was stolen in 2014.Apparently, someone took a particular liking to the lion, because in July 2014, the 40-pound statue went missing.

My kids were pretty upset to hear that a crime had taken place at the school, and so were a lot of other kids. The students of Longfellow spent the summer and fall setting up bake sales, selling bracelets and even saving up their allowance.

Little by little, kids brought in what they had and asked Mr. H to put it toward a new lion.

Here we are, more than a year later. With $700 sitting in a fund, the students banded together this month to make one last push to gather enough money to make the purchase. They needed $233. After all the coins were counted, the kids brought in well over three times that amount.

Even my children got in on the action all the way from Ohio. I got a text from a friend who said she had finally found a place to donate the money from our neighborhood lemonade stands. It made me smile and brought back memories of the summer before we left.

I swear, anytime the sun would shine, every kid in the neighborhood would gather in one yard to set up shop. Everyone had a job — making signs or building a table or filling up the glasses.

Unfortunately, with so many kids involved, there was never a consensus on how to spend the profits. Now, finally, the jar of coins was moving off my friend’s counter and being used for a cause close to all of their hearts.

Mr. H says the real kindness in this whole event is the way the kids took the initiative. They saw something that wasn’t right, and they persistently worked to turn it around.

It’s always amazing to me how kindness can do that. Kindness has the power to take an uncomfortable situation, one of those situations that leaves you feeling angry or hurt or violated, and completely flip it on its head.

When the new lion arrives at the school, those students will feel an immense sense of accomplishment and ownership that they never would have felt if the statue had not been stolen.

There was a gift to be had in the midst of a sour situation, and kindness unlocked that gift.

The new lion isn’t fiberglass, it is concrete. Instead of weighing 40 pounds, it tips the scales at 600.

And some day, when we come back to Fargo, thanks to the kind hearts of lots of elementary schoolchildren, I am confident that lion will be standing proudly next to the school to welcome back my kids.

Once a Lion, always a Lion.Principal Eric Henrickson unveils the new lion this week.

Principal Eric Henrickson unveils the new lion this week.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. 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.

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