There are certain things that will never be on my bucket list.
Skydiving. Every person I’ve ever known who has done it loves it. I’m not buying.
Alligator wrestling. I’ve never met anyone who has done this, and there is probably a reason.
Finishing (or starting) an Ironman race. That’s where you swim a lot, bike a lot and then run a full marathon. No thank you.
I’m certainly not done exploring and jumping into new adventures, but those three things are off the list. They require a certain physical and mental toughness that I don’t possess and I’m not interested in pursuing.
That said, I have a lot of respect for people who do really hard things.
My friend Jessica has never jumped out of an airplane or gone one-on-one with an alligator, but she has started (and finished) an Ironman. She’s also done 12 marathons, but who’s counting? Oh, have I mentioned she has five kids?
Jessica loves to challenge her body and she loves kindness, so for her 40th birthday last week, she ran 40 miles. In one day. She started at 4:32 a.m. and ran on and off until 3:45 p.m. She had to take a break from 7 to 10 a.m. so she could get her kids ready for school and wait for the baby sitter to show up.
At one point in the day, when she had to stop for water, she ran into a college student who didn’t hide the fact that he thought she might be missing a few marbles. “What are you doing this for?” he asked, and then immediately followed it up with, “Lady, that is so crazy!”
But Jessica is not crazy. She’s kind. Very, very kind.
Jessica wanted to celebrate her 40th birthday by doing two things she loves: running and showering people with kindness.
For months before the big day, Jessica had been stockpiling gift cards and jewelry and mittens and lots of other odds and ends, all with the idea of collecting 40 things that she could drop off in mailboxes along the route of her run.
She didn’t take any credit for the generosity, she just delivered each gift with a note that said, ” ‘No act of kindness (no matter how small) is ever wasted.’ — Aesop.”
When my neighbor tried to thank me for anonymously giving her a $50 Amazon gift card, I had to giggle. “I didn’t give it to you, but I think I know who did,” I replied.
All day long people were treated to kindness: coffee for the teachers (that one she had delivered since she couldn’t run with an urn on her back), blueberry bars for a class of triathletes, pizza gift cards for the bike shop staff and even a few things for her own family.
Many of the gifts she left in mailboxes, but some she gave away face-to-face. One interaction in particular really touched Jessica’s heart.
There was a young couple, who looked like they were just out of high school, standing outside their trailer home working on a motorcycle. Jessica was in a pinch and needed to change clothes, so she paused her run to ask if they would let her use their bathroom. The young woman walked her into the house. On the way out, Jessica handed her a sizable gift card and thanked her for her kindness. Then she took off again on her run.
Jessica could tell that the gift was needed and would be greatly appreciated. Thinking about that moment fueled the rest of the run.
My friend only has one regret from the day. She says she wished she would have stayed to see that woman and a few others open their gifts. Not to get thanks or praise, but to experience the excitement that comes from watching a face light up and knowing you made it happen.
Jessica has put on miles and miles of kindness. It started long before her run began, and it will continue long after she’s done running for good. She’s just that kind of person; a person who sees possibility and turns it into reality, for herself and for others.
Now that her 40th is out of the way, Jessica says she’s looking to the future. She’s thinking of biking 41 miles for her 41st birthday next year, with many stops along the way for kindness, of course.
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.