You know those super awkward moments where everyone is standing in an elevator and no one is talking? They seem to happen anytime we find ourselves in a contained area with a bunch of strangers.

I had a moment like that recently when I was flying somewhere by myself. I had parked the car in the cheapest airport lot, which meant I had to take a shuttle back to the terminal. There I was, the lone female with four businessmen.

We were all kind of looking at the floor until one of the men said brightly, “Anyone going anyplace warmer than this?” Just like that, with one question, the awkward aura on the bus was gone. We all sort of laughed and then shared our travel plans.

I stepped off the shuttle and wondered why I didn’t think to break the silence myself. I guess I’m learning about being kind every day.

Gary Boerner was traveling over the holidays when he ran into a bit of trouble. More than 20 years later, he still remembers the woman who extended kindness.

“Back in the early ’90s, I was traveling by myself on Interstate 94 from Fargo to Minnesota’s Twin Cities to visit family for Christmas. I was in the middle of a fairly rough snowstorm. The freezing winds were blowing and the snow was flying across the road, making traveling difficult.

“Somewhere between Fergus Falls and Alexandria, Minn., my Plymouth Arrow, a beat-up compact hatchback, got a flat tire. Because the visibility was so bad, I couldn’t see an off-ramp, so I decided to pull over and change the tire on the side of the interstate.

“After unpacking my luggage and several Christmas presents, I retrieved the spare and jack but soon discovered the lug wrench was frozen solid in a bed of ice underneath the spare. With no tools to chip out the lug wrench and no cellphone, I had to attempt to flag someone down for help.

“I stood there about 30 minutes and watched as several semis, pickups and SUVs passed me by. Finally, a caring lady in a beat-up station wagon pulled over to offer assistance. She was traveling to her mother’s house with four children ranging from 2 to 10 years old.

“The back of the station wagon was piled right to the ceiling with Christmas presents. I explained the situation and she offered to let me use her lug wrench, if she had one. I needed to unpack about half the Christmas presents to find she did have a lug wrench that fit. I mounted my spare, replaced her wrench and repacked all the Christmas presents.

“I offered her some money, but she graciously refused. She just wished me a Merry Christmas and was on her way. Her act of kindness will always be remembered.”

Christmas may be over, but with people continuing to travel by beat-up hatchback and airport shuttles, the opportunities to show kindness never end.

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