Friends are great. They pull us out of our comfort zones and can rope us into almost anything — especially things we wouldn’t be brave enough to do on our own.

My friends routinely talk me into joining book clubs, Bible studies and 5K races. I’ve even had friends try to teach me to cook (too bad it didn’t stick).

I recently heard of a group of friends in Minnesota who have been using their common love of kindness to spread positivity to people for more than 20 years. Barbara Frederick, from White Bear Lake, Minn., explains how and why they continue to spread light through the phone line:

“Five friends and I have an ‘Ideas for Positive Living’ phone message line. Each weekday, we record a new idea for people to call in and hear.

“Twenty-some years ago, Kathy Young, a social worker, and her friend, Carol, got the idea to offer a free daily message to anyone who would call. Kathy and Carol did that together until Kathy suddenly died. Carol wrote an obituary in the paper about Kathy, and she talked about the ‘Ideas’ line.

“My son, who was leaving for college, said I should join Carol in her mission. I called and joined her on the line. Then my friend, Candice, joined us. After that, her sister, Charlene, joined us. Carol’s friend, Marion, was our sub. When Marion passed, Charlene’s friend, Mary, joined us. We had several gentlemen come and go. Finally, Gill, a friend of Carol’s, joined and has been with us for years. (His message is on Thursdays.)

“We now have five individuals with very different personalities, but one common goal. We each come to this mission trying to spread a little joy to those who call. We get together for breakfast every few months at a favorite restaurant or at my house. We even exchange small gifts for fun.

"Ideas for Positive Living" is based in Minnesota, but the group has received calls from as far away as Florida over the years. Special to The Forum

“Anyone can call, and after listening to the message of the day, they can leave a reply for us. Most of the messages are positive. Several people have called in the middle of the night to listen to our recording, thanking us for being there for them. We get about 500 calls a month.

“We’re based in the St. Paul (Minn.) metro area, but we’ve had calls from as far away as Florida. We each kick in a few bucks a month to keep the phone line up and running through a 24-hour message retrieval service, like the type doctors use. We keep the calls coming through word of mouth and handmade cards we hand out to new people we meet.

“The ‘Ideas for Positive Living’ line has been a part of my life for 19 years. I have taken away more than what I have given. Carol used to say that we share what we need to hear ourselves. I believe that to be true.”

You can listen to today’s “Idea for Positive Living” by dialing 651-602-2176. There is no charge for calling.

Barbara says they keep it free because they want to spread the message of kindness and care.

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.