You know what’s better than one third-grade boy in the back seat of your car? Three third-grade boys in the back seat of your car.
In the course of a 15-minute ride, my son Ben will ask at least 150 questions, including, “Mom, does Area 51 really exist?” “Mom, do you think there will be flying cars in my lifetime?” “Mom, are there fish in that pond?” Notice that every sentence starts with “Mom.”
It’s a total blast when Ben has friends in the car, because I get to turn off my brain and eavesdrop on the answers the kids give each other. I was the lucky mom shuttling three third-graders to a basketball game a few weeks ago when the subject turned more serious.
Little Matthew told the car that his family was moving from Ohio to Kansas. The boys didn’t quite know what to say to that, so in the silence I said, “What did you say, Matthew?”
“I said my family is moving to Kansas soon,” he replied.
With as much animation as I could muster, I said, “Did you say Kansas?” Matthew was confused by my enthusiasm. “Um, yes.”
“Wow!” I continued. “You are so lucky! Kansas has some of the kindest people in the whole United States!”
Now, please don’t tell Matthew, but I haven’t actually been to Kansas. Matthew knows that I’ve written a few books on kindness and am called in occasionally to speak in his school assemblies. In his opinion, I suppose I would be considered an expert on kindness, so when I proclaimed the kindness of Kansas, he believed me.
Matthew went home and told his mom what I had said. Shortly after that, his dad, who is already at the new job, called home to say that while he was standing in line for lunch at a Kansas Chipotle, two women in front of him bought his lunch and the lunch of the family behind him. That was all the proof Matthew needed that this was indeed going to be a good place to live.
Meanwhile, Matthew’s little sister who had overheard all of this looked up at her momma and said with big, brown eyes, “Do you think the kids in Kansas are as nice as the adults?”
The mom smiled brightly as she told me this story.
“I was so glad to be able to assure my daughter that if the adults are kind, they’ve taught the kids to be kind, too,” she said.
It’s true that I’ve never been to Kansas, but it’s also true that what you look for is what you see. If we’re on the lookout for ways in which people are offending us, we’ll see their rude behavior. If we’re expecting them to be friendly and helpful, that’s what we’ll notice.
There is probably someone in your life who could use a new perspective. They could benefit from the way you see the situation, so why hold back? Give them fresh eyes.
I couldn’t give Matthew’s family much as far as a going-away present, but hopefully, I’ve given them a positive perspective that will make Kansas kindness that much easier to find.
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, a former Fargo television anchor, is a speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Athens, Ohio, with her three children and her husband, Saul Phillips. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.