I wonder sometimes about the messages I send even when I am completely unaware.
I have been known to roll my eyes and huff at my youngest son, “Can you please remember to bus your own spot after dinner this time?” I wonder if I am secretly saying to him, “You can’t remember to do anything.”
The thought is sobering and if I let my mind wander down that rabbit hole, it will scare me away from parenting for good. I’ll be curled up in a ball in my bed letting someone else, someone less likely to ruin them, take over.
So instead of entertaining those thoughts, I try to carefully watch my words, hoping that on a daily basis, I am breathing more life into their little bodies than death.
The power of our words struck me like never before a week or so ago when I was in northern Ohio for a work/play late summer adventure with a couple of girlfriends.
I had been invited to speak at a women’s event in Lakeside Chautauqua, Ohio. The “chautauqua” movement began in the late 1800s as an educational and religious gathering place. It continues today to provide daily events based on the four pillars of programming: religion, education, cultural arts and recreation.
Lakeside itself is a one-mile square community that appears to be a throwback to a time when kids were allowed to ride their bikes around town alone and when people sat on their front porches and waved to passersby.
It is lovely.
My friends and I were meandering through the farmer’s market when we noticed a touristy gift-shop named Marilyn’s. Marilyn is the owner, and she is an icon and a fixture in this sweet little town.
Everywhere we looked, from the ceiling to the floor, in every direction was something colorful, playful and enticing. T-shirts, sweatshirts, keychains with your name on them, beautiful home decor — it was almost too much to take in at one time.
Within moments, my sweet tooth found a tidy wall on the left side of the store. It was filled with rows and rows of candy. Tucked on the shelf next to the treats, was a clear box with an attached note. It said, “Marilyn trusts you … if you have correct change for candy or drinks, put it in the box. Thanks, Team Marilyn.”
Marilyn trusts you.
My heart settled on those words for a moment. I imagined being a child, nine or 10 years old — old enough to know that people are suspicious — yet young enough to want to do the right thing.
Marilyn trusts you.
I think we all need to hear that sometimes. We all need to know that someone out there thinks we’re a good person, capable of making the right choice, in the little things and the big things.
Thanks, Marilyn, for trusting us and for reminding us of the kindness in trusting others.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Friday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.