There has been a big white garbage bag sitting on our back porch for about three weeks.

My sweet daughter, Jordan, planted a garden this spring, lovingly tended it all summer, beamed with pride when we used her homegrown carrots in a pot roast, and then painstakingly pulled all the left-over vines, leaves and roots when the weather turned cool.

She was careful to place everything in the garbage bag, as part of her bittersweet goodbye to summer.

And then in her beautiful 10-year-old way, she decided she was done.

I have a different opinion, so the bag is still sitting there and will be until she decides that the harvest isn’t complete until the bag is in the trash bin.

Growing, tending and releasing a garden is hard. So is growing, tending and releasing a child.

Jordan didn’t grow broccoli, cucumber, carrots and cantaloupe for her love of fruits and vegetables. She did it for me. She positively beamed each time she got to present me with another fruit of her labor. She felt the joy that comes with an act of kindness that is a long time in the making.

Curt and Ardyth Steele of Mapleton, N.D., seem to understand that sometimes an act of kindness can be done quickly and sometimes it takes months and months to grow.

Curt has a tradition of handing out mint candy to whomever he visits with after church. From little children to the elderly, it’s a quick act of kindness to sweeten someone’s day.

But the Steeles are better known around Martin’s Lutheran Church in Casselton for their garden. The couple plants a huge garden behind their home with the main purpose of providing canned goods and produce for others.

One woman wrote to tell me how much she and another widow from the church appreciate the box they receive every fall from the Steeles. It contains salsa, pickles, spaghetti sauce, pickled beets and other homemade treats.

This is not an act of kindness that happens overnight. The Steeles spend months and months planting, weeding, picking and preserving, all for the sole pleasure of providing a special gift to others. They fill about 800 jars a year.

“It’s just really a good feeling.” Ardyth tells me. “People say ‘Why don’t you sell it?’ and we say, ‘Because it would be a job then.’ It’s more fun to give it away and know that people are appreciative and can use it.”

The Martin’s Lutheran Church annual fall dinner, bazaar and bake sale is coming up on Sunday. The Steeles have spent countless hours preparing bread-and-butter pickles and many other goodies to help raise funds for their church. The event is open to the public, runs from 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is held at the church, 602 2nd St. N.

If you go, please say hello to the Steeles for me. It’s not every day you get to meet someone who is literally known for the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.

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.

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