Nothing scares me more than the thought of losing a child. And yet, tragically, it happens.

I have never been able to grasp how parents get through an experience like that. And yet, miraculously, they do.

Jeanette Maré lost her son, Ben, when he was just 3 years old. His airways constricted, and he was gone in moments.

“The depth of pain we were experiencing was beyond description. Every parent’s worst nightmare was our reality, and we didn’t know how we would possibly survive. More than anything we just wished we could die. Perhaps we would have died if not for Matthew (our 6-year-old son). He was still alive, and he needed us as he had never needed us before,” Maré writes.

“Slowly, we began incorporating coping strategies into our lives. We came up with a design for “Ben’s Bells” and started making them in our back yard studio with friends. The therapeutic effect of working with clay was amazing, as was the power of being surrounded by people talking and working toward a common goal.

“We decided to make hundreds of the bells and distribute them randomly in our community to encourage the kindness that we so depended on to get through each day. Since Ben’s death, it had been the kindness of others, strangers and friends, that had helped us begin to heal. We wanted to find a way to pass on that kindness and to help others in the process.

“On the first anniversary of his death, hundreds of Ben’s Bells were distributed throughout Tucson, Ariz., hung randomly in trees, on bike paths, and in parks with a written message to simply take one home and pass on the kindness.”

People did, and in no time, Tucson had a new community-wide mission.

That mission is spreading across the country and has made it all the way to West Fargo, thanks to an elementary school counselor named Deb Boyer.

Deb was in Tucson several years ago for a Nurtured Heart training conference. She brought home several coins created by the Ben’s Bells organization and started giving them away along with compliments to help “recognize little moments, blowing them up big, allowing people to bask in the glow of positivity.”

The main principle of the Nurtured Heart approach is to put your energy toward what you want to see more of out of people, especially children. Instead of pointing out the negative, the idea is to point out the positive.

Deb says the coins are a tangible way to affirm the good she sees in the people around her.

“I put them in connection with their potential and their dignity. It warms my heart to see their face light up,” Deb says.

The parent of one coin recipient wrote to tell me about Deb’s kindness. It had been a few years since the act of kindness occurred, but it stuck with the mother and daughter, perhaps even longer than the compliment alone would have.

It’s still remarkable to me that a woman in Arizona grieving the loss of her little boy would have the energy to spread kindness, but it makes me wonder if maybe kindness has an energy all its own – an energy that spreads, nurtures hearts and perhaps even heals them.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.