Shortly after we were married, my father gave Saul and me matching work boots.
I remember being perplexed at the time. We didn’t live on a farm and I wasn’t known for my manual labor skills. Sure enough, Dad was right.
In 2009, my husband and I donned our matching boots hour after hour as we became part of the Fargo workforce filling and laying sandbags to save our homes and our town. We still have those boots. They come in handy more often than we would have guessed.
I thought about those boots and that very scary time in our community when I got this letter from Scott Stenvold of Fargo.
“The flood of 1997 in Grand Forks meant a forced evacuation. When the city allowed people back in, my father and I drove to his home. Entering his house on Cottonwood Street, we saw water up to the top step of the basement. How sad I was for Dad.
“We then went to my sister and brother-in-law’s house. Their basement was also flooded, and the water level reached approximately 2 feet on the main floor. Dad said, ‘Oh, these poor kids. I don’t feel nearly so bad about our house after seeing this.’
“We emptied, cleaned and sanitized Mom and Dad’s basement. Sister’s house was beyond repair and would be torn down.
“There were many wonderful people assisting. The Angel Lady (Mrs. Ray Kroc) gave every flood victim in Grand Forks $2,000. My aunt and uncle in Missoula, Mont., paid the folk’s and sister’s hotel stays in Fargo for more than a month. Another aunt and uncle from Brea, Calif., sent a check for $10,000 to be shared between my sister and parents. Also the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and likely numerous entities I’m not aware of contributed volunteer hours, food, personal hygiene products, disinfectants and perhaps most importantly, goodwill.
“Brother-in-law and Sister opted to purchase a prefabricated home and live out of town. They found 3 acres of beautiful land to build on. It was owned by my brother-in-law’s boss, who was the founder and owner of a very large company. When they approached him, asking if he would sell, the man agreed. When asked the price, he replied, ‘$1!’ My brother-in-law refused. They couldn’t accept such charity.
“In response, this wonderful man said to my brother-in-law, ‘Your father loyally worked for me many years until he passed away. You have worked for me more than 30 years without missing a day. (He’d started when he was 16.) You came to my house and sandbagged, helping save my home. You deserve this and I need you and your family to have it.’
“My brother-in-law is now 65 and still working for this generous employer.”
I know Fargo is facing another flood and that many people are scared. I hope along with the rising water levels, we can also see the kindness that is overflowing around us.
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.