I’m a pretty outgoing person. There are certainly things that heighten my anxiety, but talking to strangers isn’t one of them.
I have to remember that just because my comfort zone covers a four ZIP code-area, not everyone is wired the same way. For some people, making eye contact and sending out a genuine smile is enough to get those tummy butterflies in a tizzy.
This letter from a woman in Wisconsin is precious to me, because in it I am reminded that we don’t always need to splatter the people around us with effusive kindness, but sticking just one toe out of our comfort zones can be a great first step.
“I was helping my sister move from Wautoma, Wis.,(a small town of 5000 people) to Madison, Wis. They were selling their 5-acre farmette and would be renting for a year, so they needed to downsize quite a bit.
“We started off the day by loading up the truck and heading to the local community care closet. It was a very small store and we pulled up in a back alley to begin unloading. This was going to be the first of many truckloads we were going to drop off that day.
“A guy in his mid-50s came out the back door to greet us and started helping us unload couches and a desk. I tried to be very cheery with him because the store looked small and I knew we had a lot of stuff coming. If he turned us down and said there wasn’t any more room, it would force us to make a 35-minute drive each way to the nearest Goodwill.
“As we were leaving to get a second load, we said ‘thank you.’ I added that we would ‘See you soon’ and told him we’d bring him lunch. He declined and said we didn’t need to do that. I said, ‘I know, but we appreciate all your help. Are there any foods you can’t eat? Are you vegetarian or gluten-free or anything?’ He chuckled, patted his Santa Claus belly and said, ‘Does it look like I don’t eat anything?’ Then he stated once again that we didn’t need to bring him anything.
“We drove away and I asked my sister where we should get his lunch. My sister reminded me that he had said ‘no’ twice, but I pointed out that he was going to get really hungry helping us unload all of her stuff.
“We filled the truck again, stopped at the local Subway, did the best job guessing what he would like to eat, and then I made my sister give it to him while we unloaded the van.
“He had a huge smile as she gave him the bag and seemed really excited to help us unload the van quickly so he could eat his lunch.
“We ended up with five truckloads to that little community care closet. And boy, were we thankful they took our stuff.”
A sandwich served up with a side of kindness probably made for a sweet afternoon for the man who got it and the woman who handed it to him, even though it may have been a little out of her comfort zone.
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 speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Athens, Ohio with her three children and her husband, Saul, who is the men’s head basketball coach at Ohio University. Her column runs every Friday.