My friend, Tania, has been going through a whirlwind year of transition. One year ago, she sold her dream house, the one she had designed, built and lovingly decorated eight years prior.

She and her husband felt a call on their lives to downsize. Even with two kids still in the house, they knew it was time to let go of the big and the beautiful and focus instead on living on less.

This change of lifestyle means that her husband will get to retire much earlier than expected, so they took the plunge, sold their house and bought a smaller place to renovate.

Tania has found herself on the set of “Fixer Upper,” only without the glamour of a television crew and no Chip and Joanna in sight. They are doing this renovation and they are doing it themselves.

Things are moving slowly on the brown bi-level project that Tania has affectionately named the Cocoa House Reno. For an entire year, she and her husband, along with their kids, ages 12 and 16, have stepped over tools and around boxes as they move from room to room creating new spaces to call home.

I know Tania, and this is all going to look magical when it’s done, but right now, to her, it just looks like a whole lot of mess.

Recently, Tania has been despairing because she can’t find a single nook cleared out enough to hold even a miniature Christmas tree. It doesn’t help that she’s going through tote after tote of Christmas decorations purging her beloved items because she knows that her old lifestyle simply won’t fit into the new one.

But the beauty of the season isn’t about a tree or tinsel — it’s about giving.

Tania knows that better than anyone I know, so I wasn’t surprised when she told me she was clearing out those Rubbermaid containers and finding new homes for most of her cherished decorations.

She saw a comment online from a woman asking if anyone perhaps had any holiday items they weren’t using this year. Tania reached out to the young woman and found out that she was single mom from India, wishing to make the holiday season special for her son.

Tania met the woman and her young son on Black Friday in a bustling parking lot. As shoppers were busy rushing around seeing what they could get, Tania got to see what happens when you give. Each time she pulled yet another container full of brightly colored nik-naks and ornaments from her car, the little boy’s eyes got larger and larger.

Later that day, Tania received a message from the boy’s mom with photos of the decorations in their new home. She promised to share all the leftover bounty with other temporary, international families in the area as well.

Tania still hasn’t figured out where she can fit a little tree amidst the chaos of a house under renovation. Maybe it can sit in the spot where the Rubbermaids were living as a reminder of how beautiful she made someone else’s house this holiday season.

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.

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. You can visit Nicole at