By Nicole Phillips

Sometimes in life, you are handed a situation that makes no sense at all. You can’t fix it, and those around you don’t know what to do to help.

At those times, a chance meeting with a compassionate soul can be the lifeline you didn’t even know you needed. This is the story of Katie and Carleen.

Most of us look forward to visiting the hair salon because it’s a time of pampering and relaxation. You leave feeling like a new, improved you.

But for Carleen, visiting the salon was a day she dreaded. It brought anxiety, stress and unwanted looks. You see, Carleen is a little leery of anyone touching her head. Her scalp is covered in scars from years of surgeries for a disease called hydrocephalus, which basically means fluid built up around the brain.

There’s a big bump behind her right ear for the shunt control. Carleen could see the odd looks of hairstylists when their fingers ran over a raised scar line when they were expecting a smooth surface. Even though they never said anything, just the looks were enough to make her very uncomfortable.

Carleen met Katie at a Fargo hair salon six years ago. Carleen was there with a friend, and Katie was waiting for her next client. A simple conversation led to a lasting friendship.

Carleen started sharing her story with Katie, and through Katie’s compassionate comments and kindness, Carleen had found herself a new hairstylist.

As many of us will sheepishly admit, secrets are shared with stylists that even our own family members don’t know. This was no different for Katie and Carleen.

Eventually, Carleen underwent another operation. The medical team shaved the surgical site but left the other half untended. Katie remembers Carleen coming to her for help shaving the rest of her head. They had to wash and rewash all of the iodine and disinfectant out before they could shave it. That was the first time.

The next time came a few years later. This time, Carleen took control of her ’do and asked Katie to shave her head prior to the surgery.

While Carleen talks about how great it feels to have someone so caring and nonjudgmental to help her, Katie says she believes she is the lucky one for being trusted to undertake such an intimate role in Carleen’s life.

Carleen has had 14 surgeries in the past eight years. She lives in Bismarck now but still drives back to Fargo to see her favorite hairdresser and friend.

Kindness can come in big, grand packages, and sometimes kindness can come with a few small words that lead to a lifelong friendship when you least expect it.

Maybe you’ve been an inspiration to someone without even realizing it. Maybe it’s been a kind word to a total stranger or a smile as a co-worker walks down the hall. Opportunities to be kind are everywhere.

I hope you’ll continue to share your stories of kindness with me at nphillips15@

We can encourage each other, and at the same time, perhaps your story will motivate someone to step out of his or her comfort zone to do something for someone else, proving that kindness is contagious.

Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is the mother of three children and the wife of Bison men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.