When I was a freshman in college, I had a stalker.
Several of my friends were at a fast food restaurant near the University of Wisconsin campus when they saw a man sitting at a table with huge photos of me spread out in front of him.
They were confused, but knew something was very wrong with that scenario.
I would have thought it was all a joke or some kind of misunderstanding, but then the phone calls started coming. I was a local pageant title holder and the man would pretend to be a newspaper reporter calling for an interview. He never asked anything inappropriate, but he did his best to keep me on the line and find out where all of my future affairs were going to take place.
The Resident Assistant in my dorm and the rest of the people who managed the facility took quick action to keep me safe. For the rest of the year, anytime I had a nighttime class or needed to be out past dusk alone, they sent someone to walk with me.
We have a tendency to put on a brave face in difficult circumstances, but it’s scary when you feel like you need to constantly look over your shoulder. I still vividly recall the chills that would run up my spine at the mention of this man’s name. Yes, we did eventually find out his name and got a restraining order.
When a University of Nebraska at Omaha student was harassed in three separate incidents, a friend and his buddies jumped in to help. According to the Omaha World-Herald, Shirley Rodriguez was the recipient of three very direct and very hate-filled interactions following the presidential election. Her friend, Kain Martin, grabbed some buddies from the gym and sprung into action.
The men didn’t rush into the streets looking for the perpetrators in a fit of violence. Instead, they parked themselves at a table over the lunch hour outside the busy student center on campus.
I’m certain there had to be some funny looks. The three buff men, one with a rattlesnake tattoo on his chest, calmly sat at the table with a sign in front of them that read, “Have you felt unsafe on campus? Discriminated against? Threatened? Afraid to walk around? We will walk with you.”
The men said they just wanted to get across the message that hatred would not be tolerated.
Their unique act of kindness didn’t draw too many takers, but it has drawn the attention of thousands of people across the nation. Their story has gone viral.
While the heart behind their action resonated with so many people, I have to believe that the biggest impact it made was on Shirley Rodriguez herself, the 19-year-old student who had been the recipient of the hateful comments. Instead of feeling belittled, she now knows that others are taking her hurt seriously.
When you’re feeling scared, vulnerable and intimidated, having one reliable friend to walk by your side is a very good feeling. I can only imagine what it feels like to have three large, loving men volunteering for the job.
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.