Kindness Makes World of Difference to Newcomer

Have you ever had a life experience in which you thought to yourself, “If I can just live through this, it’ll all be OK?”

I have had several, and I’m a little embarrassed to say they weren’t caused by the bad things in my life. They were caused by the good things. Those moments of acute anxiety were caused by things I actually wanted. It’s like wanting to be in the pool, but freaking out when the water gets waist-level because it is so excruciatingly cold. You know once you’re submerged you’ll be fine, but getting there is going to be a battle. One of my “If I can only live through this …” moments was my first day on the job as a television traffic reporter in Milwaukee. I was 22 years old, and I truly thought I was going to have heart-failure when that TV camera light flashed “ON.” Once I made it through that first show, I was hooked, but boy was it a scary start.

Another of my “If I can only live through this…” moments happened my junior year of college when I was studying in the south of France. Actually, it wasn’t just one moment. It was an entire year of moments.

I went to France full of fanciful ideas of how I would wear skinny jeans and berets, sip espressos at outdoor cafes and speak fluently with all of my new French friends.

The reality was that I stuck out like a sore thumb in a beret, coffees at cafes were too expensive to drink more than once a month, and I could barely speak enough French to order a croissant.

I was lonely, poor and lost. What I would have given for someone to take me under a wing and help me feel at home.

I did meet someone at a park once who smiled sweetly and spoke slowly, but then he followed me back to my dorm and I had to call security.

Living through the experiences of that year away has given me new eyes for people who are out of their element. It has taught me to be especially kind to those who are finding their way in our country.

David Buchanan of Fargo sent me this story about a colleague who went out of his way to welcome a newcomer.

“One of our North Dakota ag producers was on a flight into Fargo from Chicago last month and was sitting with a young woman who turned out to be a student from Germany coming to North Dakota State University for the first time.

“The flight was delayed, so she was concerned that the NDSU people who were to meet her would not stay at the airport until the flight arrived. He assured her that he had a car and would be happy to take her to the campus if need be.

“When the flight arrived, he saw that the NDSU people were still there, so he watched to make certain that everything was OK for her, said goodbye and turned to leave. The young woman ran after him to give him a hug and ask for his contact information.

“The next day she called him to ask if he could serve as her emergency contact. This was required for her to complete her registration. He asked for her family contact information so that, in the event that he did need to serve as her emergency contact, he could contact her family.

“She then asked him if she could come out to his farm to visit him and his wife sometime.

“A simple airplane conversation and an offer to deliver her from the airport to NDSU turned into an excellent first impression for a foreign student coming to the United States.”

I have no doubt the young woman in this story will still have moments this year in which she will say to herself, “If I can only live through this …” but perhaps because of the kindness of a stranger they will be far fewer than one might expect.

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, N.D. 58107.

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