I had a friend once whose little boy was diagnosed with cancer. During that dark journey, the family was forced to rely on community support in almost every aspect of their lives. Medical bills, car payments, child care and homework delivery were all handled by a team of people who just wanted to help.
I watched that little boy slowly deteriorate and then gradually regain his life, but what I remember most is one particular conversation with his mom.
She told me she felt guilty over the outpouring of kindness because she worried she could never repay all of those people. She said even the thought of expressing her thanks to that many people was exhausting.
I got a letter from a woman named Marilyn Ouart who can probably relate to my friend’s feelings of being overwhelmed by kindness. Life got unexpectedly hard for Marilyn several years ago, but the amount of kindness she has seen since then continues to lift her up and give her family strength.
“In January 2008 my husband, Rusty, was deployed to Iraq. In May of that year, he was injured from an incoming mortar to his fob (barracks). He was thrown, hit with shrapnel and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
“Rusty cleaned himself up and continued suffering with headaches, vomiting, confusion and bloody noses. A month later, he passed out in the Humvee, and when he came to, he was throwing up and had trouble speaking. It was thought he had a stroke and was sent back to the U.S. After months at Fort Lewis, WA, Rusty returned home in January 2009.
“Once home, Rusty traveled to New Orleans for Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments, spending two months each time.
“This was not covered by his health insurance, but with the help of our community hosting a fundraiser, it was made possible. Rusty continues to have many health issues related to his injury, such as headaches, vertigo, vomiting and cognitive thinking, but thanks to those treatments, my husband can walk and talk again.
“I continue to be thankful to those who help when possible and to those who remember our soldiers and their families.
“This letter was hard to write because it’s difficult to name all of the people and businesses who have shown us kindness: The dentist who gives us discounted services, the pool people who exchanged our pool for a better one, the multitude who came through when lightning struck our home in July 2010 and we lost everything in a house fire.
“There have been so many angels of kindness to our family in this community, but I’d like to tell you about the most recent.
“A few weeks ago, our riding lawn mower had steering problems, so I took it to the dealer in Moorhead. I borrowed a trailer from my brother-in-law who helped me load it, and off I went to RDO to get it fixed. When I got the quote of the price to fix it, I struggled with how to make this work on our budget but ended up giving the OK. I have teenage boys who mow lawns in the summer, so getting it fixed was important to them.
“When I went to pick up the lawn mower, I was greeted by five friendly employees. They had sharpened the blades and fixed some additional problems with the mower. I proceeded to take out my checkbook but was told to put it away as this was a ‘no charge.’
“They told me to make sure to thank my husband for his service. It took all I had inside not to show my grateful emotions with tears. Again, we thank the community of Fargo-Moorhead for its unending generosity and kindness.”
Marilyn, thank you for sharing your story and allowing others to experience the gift that comes from helping others.
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 columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.