I got to spend the last week traveling around the state of Wisconsin talking about my favorite thing: kindness.
Unfortunately, going from small town to small town meant I had to do a lot of my least favorite thing: driving.
I was feeling too frugal to spend the extra $5 on cruise control for my rental car, so for eight days, I kept one eye on my lead foot and the other eye on the road.
I was on the second lag of my trip when I started lamenting in my head about my lack of ability to teleport.
This would be so much simpler if I could just snap my fingers and be there.
Normally, when I drive I use it as an opportunity to return phone calls or sing along to my favorite songs.
Not this time. My Ohio-based cellular service was not in the mood to communicate with Wisconsin’s rural communities. Neither was the car radio. Just when I’d get a great ’80s, ’90s or Today station dialed in, static would creep up around the next bend.
Speaking of the next bend, I was never quite sure what was around it because Siri refused to give me driving directions.
So, there I was, fluctuating between 25 and 55 mph on the back roads of my home state, hoping desperately I was going in the right direction.
That’s when I saw it: a huge sign nailed to a tree. It simply said, “Smile more.”
Then I passed an apple stand, with a small bucket to leave your money. Then came a pumpkin patch with a maze carved out for the littlest trick-or-treaters. Then I noticed a quaint farmstead that someone had worked awfully hard to restore to its original beauty. Then an old school house that probably once doubled as a church.
In each little town, high school kids were laughing and painting the storefront windows for homecoming.
I noticed a change happening in my heart as I drove day after day, past new hidden treasures. I became grateful for the silence, for my lack of cell phone service and radio stations and Siri’s impersonal commands.
Had I been able to teleport from place to place, I would have missed so much. I had time to ponder the kindness of the person who carefully hung that “Smile more” sign and the farmer who blazed the corn maze trail, and the one who offered apples on the honor system.
Instead of worrying about North Korea or pondering whether or not people should stand for the National Anthem, I got to see America. I got to see what’s happening in the small spaces that are making a big impact on the culture of their communities.
I have to say, I left Wisconsin feeling so good about the state of our world, because despite what may or may not be happening in the large-scale news events, there is still kindness happening in the details of everyday life, reminding us that things aren’t so bad after all.
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. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.