I remember Saul talking to the children earlier this month. It was about two weeks before my July 14 mastectomy. Our three kids were acting like kids sometimes act in the middle of summer: squirrely. They were fighting with each other and complaining about what was or wasn’t in the refrigerator and pretending they couldn’t hear me when I asked them to separate the laundry and unload the dishwasher.
I only know of this conversation because the 5-year-old, Ben, ratted him out.
Ben walked up to me later in the afternoon and said, “Mom, you have breast cancer, right? Not cancer, ’cause cancer is the one you die from, right? But you only have breast cancer.”
Somehow in five short years of life, Ben had picked up on something that we had never taught him and that certainly isn’t true. He had created a distinction in his mind.
While I did my best to assure him that everything was going to be OK, I started wondering what other beliefs his young mind was holding. I can only hope that somehow, someway, he is picking up on the importance of things like kindness and integrity and generosity.
These are the things that Fargo resident Erica Forster was taught through example by her mother, too. She sent me this letter:
“My mother, Joanne, was an amazing woman. She would help anyone she could. She passed away at the young age of 47 in 2011 to a brain tumor. When her family and friends got together to celebrate her life, I didn’t expect to hear a story of my mother’s kindness that I hadn’t already heard, for I thought I knew them all.
“My mom’s friend, Candace, came to her funeral service. She walked to the podium to speak and of course began telling everyone of how special Joanne was. Then she went on to tell a story of a time my mother helped her unexpectedly.
“Joanne went to work one day at a little store in Rochester, Minn., called The Bread Baker, where Candace also worked. Candace told my mom how her car had finally broken down and that she was going to look at a new car but didn’t think she was going to be able to afford it. Candace was a single mom with three boys.
“Joanne asked if she could come along when she went to look at the car, and after work, the two of them went to check it out. Candace fell in love with the car, but was still doubtful that she could pay for it. As my mom and Candace started driving away, Candace had no idea what my mom was about to do.
“The next place they stopped was my mom’s bank. My mother took Candace inside and got a loan so she could buy the car she loved! She told Candace to pay her payments when she was able to. Never once did it cross Candace’s mind that day that my mother would help her in such an unimaginable way. Candace ended her story saying she will never forget that day and how she will forever be grateful for my mother and their friendship.
“That’s just who my mom was, she had this saying that she could never say no, not to her kids or to a complete stranger or a best friend. She has passed her kindness on to me, for I can’t say no either.”
Thank you for sharing, Erica. I’m certain my kids can pinpoint quite a few times when I’ve said “no,” but I’m hoping they will remember I always said “yes” when it came to kindness.
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 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. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.