Bravery is such a slippery concept. Sometimes we think we have tons of it, and then we face a chance to flex and instead we back down.
Other times we are sure we can’t possibly be brave enough to face a situation until we have to actually walk through it. And then we do.
I saw my kids exhibit such immense bravery these past few weeks that it’s left me in awe of them and others who walk through life looking for a friend. We recently moved from Ohio to South Dakota. That means new schools for all three of my kids.
Jordan is a sophomore, Charlie is an eighth grader, and Ben is in fourth grade. The entire family took Ben to his back-to-school open house, but for some reason I am the one he targeted on the drive to the event.
“Mom,” he started, “your behavior tonight could be the difference between me having friends and me not having friends.”
Come again? Did he think I was going to streak through the halls naked? I have been known to show women going through breast cancer my post-cancer reconstructed chest, but that’s usually only if they ask.
Anyway, back to Ben. I’m not sure what he was thinking, but I took that opportunity to remind him that his kindness toward others will have a lot more to do with making friends than any embarrassing faux pas on my end.
The next day Ben and I rode bikes to his first day of school. He allowed me to hug him at the bike rack and my heart sort of stood still as he walked away to join a group of kids he didn’t know. As I rode home, I kept praying, “Please let the world be good to him. Please let the world be good to him.”
Suddenly I caught myself and switched gears. “Please let him be good to the world.”
I thought about Jordan and how even though she was the new girl, she was heading into her first day at the high school 15 minutes early to meet a German foreign exchange student outside the front doors so the girl wouldn’t have to walk in alone.
I thought about Charlie and how friendly he was to younger middle schoolers who were on his summer baseball team. They looked up to him and he honored that with kindness.
We all have times when we need our bravery to kick in. We have to walk into a new job or a new town or a new challenge alone. We can hope and pray someone comes along to help us through it, or we can be the person who realizes everybody in this world needs a little help.
We can keep our eyes on our own feet or we can look up and look around and see who might be just a tad more uncomfortable than we are. Then we can smile and offer to let them borrow our bravery in an act of kindness that costs us nothing.
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, a former Fargo television anchor, is a speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Aberdeen, S.D., with her three children and her husband, Saul Phillips, the head men’s basketball coach at Northern State University. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.