Earlier this month, I had the privilege of speaking to about 500 people in my church sanctuary.

I told those people about my life growing up. I talked about visits to a prison to see my mom’s husband and about struggles with addiction during my years as a young mom.I had one main point: Kindness doesn’t just make the world a better place; it makes you a better person.

I received lots of beautiful messages afterward from people commenting on how brave I was to tell my story.

I didn’t feel brave the first time I shared those details; I felt vulnerable. But the amazing thing about vulnerability is that it is the gateway to empowerment.

A woman named Teresa has made herself vulnerable by sharing her story with the hopes of helping others and giving credit where it is due.

“I spent many years of my first marriage fearing for my children’s safety and for my own life as my husband was an alcoholic.

“That exposure and fear brought many acts of kindness into my life from others, but not from the places you would expect.

“Sure, I had family and friends there to support me and help me in any way they could, and for that I am always grateful, but you see, the acts of kindness I am talking about are from people whose job it is to help people.

“There are so many people who work for organizations in our community, and it’s their job to help people, but I think their influence is forgotten or seen as a professional duty. It is almost expected of them, but it doesn’t mean their kindness is any less important.

“While my husband was drinking away our paychecks and going from job to job, The Village Family Service Center helped me with financial counseling, advice and assistance paying my bills, and basically keeping my head above water.

“Things went from bad to worse, and I was unable to feed my children, so I had to get assistance from the Emergency Food Pantry. I was ashamed to be there asking for help, but when the woman talked with me, listened to me and helped me select the food I needed, I smiled. Her kindness and understanding was such a comfort.

“When I decided to finally leave my husband, a friend led me to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. Let me tell you, the kindness they showed me, the tears they cried with me and the hand-holding was more than a job to me. It was my lifeline. Within 48 hours of my decision to leave, I felt safe, confident I had done the right thing, and I had all the necessary steps completed to move on with my life.

“It wasn’t just one amazing person at Rape and Abuse, the Food Pantry or The Village Family Service Center, it was every single one of them. They showed my children and me compassion, kindness and love. Because of them, I was able to move on and find love again. Two years ago, I finally remarried.

“Today, I am experiencing the love and compassion of another organization in my community. The Veterans Affairs hospital. My husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer just before Christmas, and to say it was a shocker is an understatement. There is no chance of remission, and he will be on chemo treatments for the rest of his life.

“His pulmonologist, oncologist and infusion nurses are amazing. We go to treatments every 21 days. It’s hard, and we struggle and he feels like crap for weeks afterwards, but the environment is not dreary or depressing.

“We are greeted with smiles and kindness that light up the room. There is laughter and joking around and conversations about our kids and how we are doing.

“This is the profession they have chosen, but they do it with kindness and compassion that cannot be ignored. They inspire me, and I am grateful to them for making a bad situation bearable. The flowers we give and the thanks we express just don’t seem enough for all they do!

“I have had to come in contact with these organizations because of some tough situations, but their kindness has made me a better person and has taught me that life is too short to dwell on just me.

“I can smile, give back to these organizations, volunteer and donate. If in doing their jobs they can make me feel this good and this happy, how can I do the same in my day-to-day interactions? It’s that question that drives me to show kindness each and every day, and for that I am thankful.”

Thank you so much for telling us your story, Teresa. I am certain there are many people who will be empowered to seek out these same organizations thanks to your kindness in sharing.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.