I had the strangest thing happen to me the other day. Someone totally burst my kindness bubble, and I was left standing in the middle of my bedroom wondering if I should scream, cry or just go back to bed and pretend it never happened.
I was home, recovering from my mastectomy surgery and unable to do anything for myself. Literally, I was told not to lift anything heavier than a can of soup. No pouring my own milk, no putting dishes in the dishwasher, no scrubbing down kitchen counters.
Perhaps you can imagine with three active children in the house how incredibly sticky and gooey a home can become in a few short hours. Well, it had been two weeks since my house had seen a vacuum or a washcloth, so in a pinch, I took a suggestion and called a cleaning lady who came highly referred by a good friend.
The day of the cleaning arrived, and I was beyond excited to see the woman arrive at the predetermined time. I walked her through the house and showed her where everything was and explained what needed to be done. I left her a check for $125. Expensive, but this was going to be an all-day job.
I thought it would be best to just get out of her way for a bit, so my girlfriend drove me uptown to get my hair washed, since that, too, is something I couldn’t do on my own.
Just over two hours later, I returned home.
Maybe you can guess what happened, but I would never in a million years have imagined that a person could look me in the eye, agree to do a job, and then basically take the money and run.
Yep. I’d been had.
I called the woman and asked if perhaps she was out having lunch and planned to return soon to complete the job.
She sounded confused and then said, “No. I finished the job. Well, my son got sick so I had to leave, but I finished the job.”
Let’s just say that the conversation deteriorated from there. I may have, in my very kindest voice, asked her to explain exactly what she had cleaned since I could not see any strong evidence of her existence.
I hung up the phone, not proud of myself and not proud of people in general. All of a sudden, the world, and everyone in it, including myself, looked very, very dark.
I stood in my bedroom trying to figure out what to do next. Should I cry? Should I scream? Should I head back to bed? Someone I didn’t even know had offended me, and I was coming unglued.
I have learned that you are supposed to pray for your enemies, and at that moment, that lady felt like an enemy. So I prayed. I asked God to show me both my behavior and her behavior from his perspective. I asked him to forgive me and to forgive her. I asked him to make that horrible feeling in my stomach go away. I never thought he’d use kindness to answer my prayer.
At just that moment, the back door opened, and I heard the the voice of my 5-year-old son who was hanging out with his favorite baby sitter for the day. They were not supposed to be home for another four hours, because I was supposed to be sleeping and recovering from surgery.
Baby sitter Kelsey took one look at me and said, “What’s wrong?” I spilled the whole story, while Ben ate his lunch and Kelsey listened sympathetically. Then she said, “You need to sleep. I’ll take care of it.”
Four hours later, when I walked out of my bedroom, still feeling groggy from sleep and painkillers, I smelled oranges and lemons and freshness.
My house was clean. From top to bottom, every inch of my house had been turbo-cleaned in four hours by the world’s best baby sitter (I also call her my friend) and her 5-year-old sidekick.
The horrible feeling in my stomach had been replaced by immense gratitude.
Now, when I think of that day and that cleaning lady and my not-so-kind behavior, all I can think about is the amazing power of kindness to turn something bitter into something beautiful.
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 Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.