Saul and I were young parents when the circus came to town. Only two of our three children had been born, and with both of them under the age of 5, it felt like we were living in a circus. Or at the very least, a zoo.

We hiked the steps to our seats in the upper reaches of the Fargodome, diaper bag and two kids in tow. The minute we sat down, my daughter spotted the elephants in one of the side rings. Down the steps we went, catching one of the last rides before the show began.

Elephant-riding conquered, we schlepped back up the steps. That was when our young son noticed all the glow-in-the-dark wands waving across the arena.

We debated the cost for a few minutes and finally gave in, realizing we were buying ourselves some peace and quiet. Mercifully, we only had to descend one flight of stairs before we found a vendor.

Charlie opted for a wand in hues of purple and blue. What we didn’t realize until we were in the quiet of our home is that the wand not only lit up, it also sang. Ten years later, I can still hear the “Fly fly fly, you little butterfly” tune it played over and over until I figured out how to remove the batteries.

The kids still talk about that wand and the elephant rides and all the stairs we had to climb. They remember tightrope walkers, a trick motorcycle and, of course, the clowns.

Those precious memories of my babies came floating back when I got this letter from Iris Ohman of Pelican Rapids, Minn. It sounds like her family had a day to remember at the circus, too.

“I’ve enjoyed the Shrine Circus for years, first taking my sons, then my grandkids and now my great-grandkids.

“Recently, I went to the circus in Detroit Lakes, Minn., with my granddaughter and great-granddaughters, 7-year-old Maddie and 5-year-old Audrenna. My granddaughter had gotten free tickets from a local business.

“As we were walking into the second of three performances, we saw many kids wheeling out bicycles. We found out there was a special contest going on. You could buy a candy bar and perhaps get lucky enough to get one of the 40 wrappers that said, ‘You won a bike.’

“There were 40 bikes given away at each of the three performances, all donated by local merchants. We bought a few candy bars but didn’t win.

“As we were leaving the performance though, a lady stopped Maddie and handed her a winning candy bar! We thanked the lady, and Maddie picked out a brand-new bike.

“There was so much kindness to be found in that day. We would like to thank the Shriners, the circus for their great performance, the local businesses who donated the bikes and tickets and the woman who gave Maddie the winning candy bar. That generous lady taught my great-granddaughter a wonderful lesson in giving.”

I’m sure her family will remember that circus for years to come thanks to the showstopping act called kindness.

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 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. You can visit Nicole at