I find it interesting that we teach our children the importance of using manners and being kind and standing up for others, but sometimes we as adults fail in our own actions and words. I’m as guilty as the next person of hustling by someone who looks different. I avoid eye contact for fear that they will ask me for something I don’t want to give.

Yet, when I slow down and make that connection, I am always rewarded. So what about the times I choose not to slow down? I think there is an opportunity to be kind, even in those circumstances, simply by keeping our negative thoughts to ourselves.

Listen to this story sent in by a woman from Minnesota.

“Nicole, I also strive to show kindness in my daily life as I work in a small-town grocery store and know many of my customers by name. Something happened recently that has impacted me a great deal.

“I was on the till when I saw an obviously homeless man stop outside our front windows. He painstakingly tied his dog up behind our large hedges so no one could get close to or bother his pet.

“While he was doing this, a customer stopped to talk to him. They conversed for a few minutes and before parting, the man pulled out his wallet and handed the man with the dog some cash.

“It was several minutes later when the homeless man came into the store. He shopped for maybe five minutes and then proceeded to the checkout. He was a nervous guy and said he was surprised that someone had been nice enough to pick both him and his dog up and give them a ride. I don’t know where he came from or where he was heading, but I do know he was nervous about being separated from his dog and wanted to check out quickly.

“While he was getting his dog and packing his groceries, I heard people around me making comments that were not kind, and it made me so angry. People seem to instantly judge someone who is homeless as being dangerous or dishonest. This man is someone’s son or brother and maybe he was a war vet. It’s possible he has a mental illness. It is not our place to judge someone, but to help if possible.

“I was so grateful to the man who stopped and talked to him and gave him some money. I thought about this situation for the rest of that day. I have taught my children to help those who are less fortunate, and I hope there are many more people in this world, like the man who gave him money and a ride, that cross the paths of the people who need them.”

Not everyone who entered that store was called to give something to the homeless man. We all feel a tugging in our hearts for different things. But imagine the children entering the store that day with their parents. In that instant, even with no money changing hands, we are given an opportunity to teach our children to lead with either judgment or compassion. I hope for the sake of the next generation, we choose compassion every time.

Some of the greatest advice ever handed down came from the movie “Bambi,” and a little bunny named Thumper, who reminded us that momma always said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

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 column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.