Spreading Kindness Through Peace Corps

Mark this down: At age 11, my daughter, Jordan, has decided to become a missionary. Unfortunately for Jordan, her parents have not, so she will have to hit the pause button on that dream for a few more years.

Jordan’s passion and compassion was recently ignited when she attended a presentation by a woman who spends time each summer volunteering in El Salvador. This woman painted a vivid picture of the struggles people in other countries face. All of a sudden, my child was able to view the act of turning on a faucet as a luxury.

Now she is trying to make sense out of why some people are born into education, health care and surplus and others are not. I’m still trying to figure that one out, too.

I got an email from another mother who has a daughter with a heart for helping. Deb Mohagen, of West Fargo, has felt both the pride and worry that come from having a child who lives a life of courageous kindness. Deb’s daughter, Amber, has spent the last two years helping the hurting in Albania.

“About three years ago, my daughter shared her dream of wanting to join the Peace Corps. Immediately, I thought of all the third-world countries she could be sent to, her safety, being so far from home and the lengthy time commitment. My daughter, being very determined and dedicated to fulfilling her mission, left for Albania 27 months ago. I am so proud. I worried I had not passed on the importance of serving others, of sharing kindness and love, of dedicating each day to this purpose. But I was wrong. Amber was a girl with a degree from North Dakota State University who decided she wanted to do more with her life before graduate school or starting her profession. This same girl is now returning as a mature young woman who makes kindness her first priority.

“If you ever need to experience random acts of kindness, just read through the blogs of these special Peace Corps volunteers. They live in third world countries and do not have many of the things we take for granted every day, simple things such as heat in their homes, running water and electricity. They give of themselves for two years to their assigned communities. They work with that community to address challenges in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth development. They do all of this in return for housing and a small living stipend to cover food and incidentals. Many of them return to America with no job, no apartment and hefty college loans, yet they return with an experience that is beyond measure.

“Here is some insight from Amber’s blog (https://amberinalbania.wordpress.com) after being in Albania for one year. ‘Whenever work, life and Albanian encounters get extremely frustrating, I start counting. Calculating in my head, the exact amount of days until I return to the infamous land of America. Where things are safe, expected and from what I remember: easy. As most volunteers know, you settle into this spot between uncomfortable and a hard place. I have forgotten what it is like to walk into a store and know exactly what I am getting. Or ordering something on an actual menu and having no surprises. Or having safety regulations and food sanitation laws. Or speaking English. (Oh, how I miss that!) But then I remember why I came here. This is the kind of adventure I was looking for. And of course, that along with the bad days, there are always good days. That I am not here to change the world. I am just here to try and make a positive impact on one person’s life.’ ”

Deb recently traveled to Albania to see where her daughter has lived during the past two years and got a glimpse of the lives she’s touched. Then the proudest mama in the world got to bring her baby home.

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, 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.

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