I have a picture on my office wall that says, “Kindness Matters.” The coffee cup on my desk reminds me to “Be Kind.”
I’m naturally drawn to things that revolve around kindness, whether it’s artwork or the latest academic research. When a radio announcer mentions kindness, my ears perk up. But it hasn’t always been this way.
Hmmm. I hadn’t ever thought of Jewel as my soulmate. I kind of thought my husband was my one true partner. “OK, I’m listening,” I hesitantly replied.
“She has this song, and it says, ‘In the end, only kindness matters’ and then there’s this line that says, ‘I will get down on my knees, and I will pray.’ It’s like you wrote the song, Nic! It’s totally your anthem.”
I assured my husband that I am not a ghostwriter for Jewel, then I went home and Googled the song.
It’s called “Hands,” and it was released in 1998. If I had written that song based on my beliefs in the late ’90s, I’m sad to say, it would have included the line, “In the end, only Nicole matters.”
I was Miss Wisconsin that year, and after competing in the Miss America pageant, I spent the year touring the state talking to kids about how to deal with crisis, primarily divorce.
My big line was, “No matter where you come from, no matter what’s happened to you in the past, from here on out, you get to make the decisions that determine your future.”
Not bad advice, because it’s true that we can’t spend our lives dwelling on the past or on other people’s mistakes, but looking back, I see it also wasn’t necessarily good advice.
I left out one major aspect. Kindness. What is the point of succeeding in this life if you step on everyone else’s head when you climb up the ladder? You’ll get to the top, still feeling empty, and realize you’re no better than the people who hurt you.
I wish I wouldn’t have ended there when I talked to those students. I wish I would have continued on and reminded them that the only way to truly create joy in your life is by creating joy in the lives of others.
I probably would have had to convince them that it’s not hard and it’s not scary (although sometimes it is). I would have assured them, as I assure you now, that kindness will not cause bankruptcy financially, emotionally or physically. It’s just a matter of teaching yourself to think, “What can I do to brighten the day of the person standing in front of me?”
See? You don’t even have to go out looking for people to help. You may be in line at the gas station and notice the clerk has a warm, beautiful smile. Instead of just thinking it, say it! You don’t know what kind of path that person is walking, but if it’s anything like the rest of ours, it’s occasionally bumpy. If you are the one who can smooth it out, even for a moment, it will be worth it for both of you.
I’m touched that my husband would hear a song about kindness and think of me. A lot has changed since 1998. Thank God.
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.