My birthday is coming up this week. On Wednesday, I’ll be 26. Again.

Birthdays are fun, but they don’t hold the same excitement for me that they did when I was a child. I remember wanting to invite as many kids as possible over to my house on my birthday in hopes of having a huge stash of presents to open.

Now, I’m a practical and occasionally guilt-ridden mom, so when I receive a gift, I immediately feel badly for all of the work the gift-giver had to go through to bring me said gift. Besides, at a certain point in life, the only things you truly want are a hand to hold and healthy children.

I often hear about thoughtful and creative ways people choose to celebrate their birthdays or the birthdays of loved ones. I got a letter recently from Phyllis, a proud mother, who told me how her son celebrated turning the Big 4-0.


“Dear Nicole,

“Our son, Paul, decided to do something special when he turned 40. He selected 40 people who have made a significant impact on his life and wrote them a letter. These are people who he feels lucky and blessed to have known: friends, family members, colleagues and mentors.

“Enclosed in each of the 40 letters was $11. Eleven is his favorite number, along with the number 4, which are the uniform numbers of his favorite baseball players growing up, Chuck Knoblauch and Lenny Dykstra.

“Here is part what he said:

“ ‘First of all, I really do just want to say thanks! My life has been shaped, blessed, and full of some good belly laughs and memories because of these relationships. With the enclosed $11, please make an impact with it.

“Have a coffee date with a spouse or a friend you haven’t truly connected with in a while; donate it to someone who needs it; buy flowers for someone; go to a baseball game. I don’t care what you do with it, just make a good story out of it!

“Finally, I’m asking that over the course of the next 90 to 120 days, you do something creative with it and report back to me via phone, text or in person.’

“Nicole, I was surprised by his letter and felt it was one of those stories of kindness that you’d like to hear about.”

Thanks Phyllis for sharing Paul’s story. I’m sure Paul will get to spend the better part of the year hearing about all of the ways his friends thought of to spread the love with $11, and that’s a great gift in itself! I’ll have to remember that idea when I turn 40. In another 20 years.

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