I got a cryptic email from someone in the Women’s Center at Ohio University. It was an invitation to come to the OU Women’s basketball game on February 17th. She didn’t want to say much, only that several women would be acknowledged and she wanted me to be there by the half-time presentation.

There are several sporting events each year that honor breast cancer survivors, so I just put two and two together and assumed that was the plan.

I’m embarrassed now by my attitude and my words as I was driving to the game with my kids. These events are nice, but they’re always so sad. I don’t want to be honored for having survived breast cancer. I want the women who died from this stupid disease to be alive. Or honor the women who are fighting for their lives right now. They’re the ones who need the encouragement…

My kids ignored my little rant. Really, no answer was the best answer. Aside from the women’s basketball game, it was also Game Day for my husband’s team and my kids know that always makes me a little edgy.

Just before half-time, I lined up in the back hall of the arena with nearly 100 women who were all student leaders at Ohio University. Presidents of social clubs and academic clubs and student athletes, talking with these young women taught me one thing: Future America, we’re in good hands. Their beautiful minds and inspired spirits will make them powerhouses for positive change in our world. I’m certain of it.

The Director of the Women’s Center, Dr. Geneva Murray, tells me to wait at the end of the line and walk out with her. At this point, I’m still not certain whether or not this has anything to do with breast cancer. Should I have worn pink?

All of a sudden, I find myself in the middle of the basketball court with a team of female college leaders at my back and a whole lot of OU basketball fans at my front.

Sweet Lou, our legendary announcer starts reading off a bunch of stuff about me and kindness. Geneva hands me a plaque… “Ohio University Empowering Women Award presented to Nicole Phillips…”

and everything gets blurry.

Apparently, I had started leaking from my eyes.

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people standing

All I could think was, Me? Don’t you know that empowered women empower women? The only reason I have strength to remind others that they have strength is because of the people who pour into me day after day, week after week, year after year.

From my first female editor at The Forum who helped birth the name Kindness is Contagious to my current female editor who carves out a spot for me in the newspaper each Friday. My amazing college intern, Maddie, who works her tail off trying to make me sound good on The Kindness Podcast. My dear friend, Teresa, who retired from her 42 year career and is now helping me organize mine. My mother-in-law, who is in charge of my kids right this moment, while I’m speaking for a week in Wisconsin. And oh so many more.

(Side note, I’m also surrounded by many kind and supportive men. They are prayer warriors, business leaders, activists for change, and yes, one is a very cute college basketball coach.)

I get to remind people of the immense power of kindness because of so many who have shown it to me in the past and continue to do so today.

So about this award… see where it says “Presented to Nicole Phillips”?

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

I’m gonna take a Sharpie and add a few words so it actually says, “Presented to all the people who empower Nicole Phillips” because surely it was meant for you, too.