I can’t remember the exact year, but I remember the date: Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve.

Saul and I were living in a little house in north Fargo and Jordan was a baby. It was teeth-chattering cold outside, because that’s what winter in North Dakota is like. On this particular night, we were all cozy in bed until about 2 o’clock in the morning. That’s when Saul and I woke up and looked at each other.

“I’m cold,” I said. “Me too,” Saul replied. Uh-oh. We instantly knew what had happened. The propane tank was empty. We knew we had to keep it full, but with the excitement of a baby and a holiday season, it slipped our minds.

We gathered up little Jordan and every single blanket in the house. We huddled close together in bed and waited for morning. When the sun came up, we called an emergency after-hours number and asked the man on the line to come fill our propane tank on New Year’s Day. We never made that mistake again.

Thanks to this story about a woman in Minnesota, I know we aren’t alone. Accidents happen, regardless of the date on the calendar.

“It can happen on a holiday, and all a parent of small children can think is, ‘How much does a plumber cost on Christmas Eve?’ That’s what happened to my daughter as the toilet was plugged by the diaper wipes used by one of her young boys. Her husband was out running the last of Christmas errands when he got the call that not only had the toilet overflowed, but there was a flood in the basement.

“The overflow wasn’t caught right away. So, besides mopping and bleaching the entire basement as the local plumber quickly snaked and unclogged the line, they were also nervously awaiting the bill.

“They were trying to remain grateful they had gotten help so late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve and not let an unexpected household expense ruin their Christmas spirit. They continued to work quickly so they wouldn’t be late to the Swedish buffet dinner. Luckily, the large extended family gathering was only half a mile away.

“When the plumber from Rose Plumbing of Roseville, Minn., handed over the bill, my daughter was ready with checkbook in hand. Then came the biggest surprise ever. The bill said, ‘Have a Merry Christmas.’ No charge!

“They were shocked and grateful as their spirits became restored at such kindness. Truly, it was a joyful moment filled with the magical generosity of those who embrace Christmas.

“The stress of the crisis melted away with that penned note across the invoice. ‘No charge… Have a Merry Christmas.’ I know my daughter and son-in-law will not forget this amazing gift.”

There are lots of ways to stay warm this winter, but kindness is my favorite.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.