They say you either had a good childhood or a good story to tell. Andrea Abbate, from Glendale, Calif., says she has the latter.
Her childhood was terribly traumatic, but as she bravely shares with us, it was an act of kindness during that time that saved her.
“When I was 10, my father had a drinking problem that would sometimes end up with him in my room at night. I was too frightened to tell anyone. I was the oldest of five children and my mother had her hands full and seemed overwhelmed by all of us and my dad.
“There was a brave person in my life who knew what to do. Her name was Pearl. She was a kind and heroic black woman who worked for our family during the week as a housekeeper. She saved my life and I will never forget her.
“I don’t know how she knew what was happening or how she did it, but she spoke to my mom for me and made arrangements for me to come live with her. This was 1966. Things were more unfair for black people than they are today, even though there is still a long way to go. She could have easily lost her job but that did not stop her from getting involved.
“She took me in to live with her and her family for several months. Living with Pearl was everything that living at my home was not. There was love, and laughter, and real communication, and music and great food and more love. People dropped by just to say ‘hello.’ I learned how to play dominoes, how to express myself and how to trust others. Living with Pearl, I felt safe for the first time in my life.
“When I did go home, my father had somehow been made aware of what happened. He had been a blackout drunk — which is what he told me when he apologized. He even stopped drinking for awhile. He never came into my room again.
“I left home seven years later to go to college, but I can tell you the most important lesson I ever learned is the one Pearl taught me. She taught me to stand up for others who need your help; to be brave and kind and speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.
“I have adopted two children and done several things to try and pay forward what she did for me, even though it is a debt that can never be repaid. She is responsible for the person I am today.
“In her kitchen, framed and hanging on the wall, Pearl had an African Proverb that said, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.’ I have the same quote framed in my home. I love you Pearl. Thank you for standing up for me.”
Kindness sees the person who feels invisible and speaks up for those who can’t.
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.