I want to share a story with you, and then I want to share a story with you. The way they work together in one woman’s life is breathtaking and contains a lesson for all of us.
Here’s story No. 1, which is contained in this letter I got from a woman named Tammy Guffey.
“My husband and I got a call asking if we were renting our basement. Our plan was to eventually rent it out, but it needed a major gut job first.
“The people inquiring were Rick and Mary. They had lost the contract on the house they were buying and needed a place to stay. They had already come up with dead ends through both their church and family.
“My husband and I have been homeless before and know the feeling too well, so we told them they could have our bedroom and we would share our kids’ room.
“Rick and Mary insisted on staying in the one room of the torn up basement that was still intact. We quickly put a new vanity in the bathroom so they would have a sink, but we all shared the upstairs shower.
“They moved in on a Saturday, the same day that we were leaving for a family vacation. These strangers watched our house, but I wasn’t worried. I knew they would soon be our friends.
“Rick and Mary only ended up staying about three weeks, but I was right, we became friends for life.
“I was happy to help someone in a situation I had once been in myself, and I hope I never forget the lessons I learned during that time in my life or the importance of kindness.”
At the bottom of Tammy’s letter was a link to her website (yestokindness.com), which led me to her blog. That’s when I found out that Tammy uses kindness for her battle with life like I used kindness during my battle with breast cancer.
Tammy suffers from bipolar depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Here’s story No. 2, which is how Tammy explains her disease.
“Have you ever wondered what could be so bad that someone could take their own life? I have struggled with suicidal thoughts since I was in junior high. Now 20 years later, in my 33rd year, the suicidal thoughts have built a super highway in my brain. Let me break that down for you.
“When a person without a suicide super highway gets negative feedback, they brush it off, learn from it and move on. For me, I go right to ‘I should kill myself.’
“When a person without a suicide super highway gets in a fight with their family, they know it will pass, they learn from it and move on. For me, I go right to ‘I should kill myself.’
“When a person without a suicide super highway drops a glass and breaks it, they clean it up. For me, I go right to ‘I should kill myself.’
“It’s not in a poor me, I need attention, nobody loves me kind of way. It’s real. It’s scary. It’s overwhelming.
“On Aug. 11, Robin Williams will have been gone for two years. That same exact day one year earlier was the last time I attempted suicide. I feel like I need a sticker.
“Everyday I battle this. Every moment I have to distract myself from this and I never know what will be the trigger. So when I call you to see if I can help you, I’m probably just needing a break from myself. It’s not always about you, so please say yes.”
Tammy has found that the best way to get out of her own mind and escape those dark thoughts is by being kind. She reaches out to others and offers her kindness as a means of survival.
Many of us say no to people who want to help us paint a room or weed a garden or taxi children simply because we think we’re being a burden on them. Tammy gives us new insight into other reasons people offer their time. Perhaps we need to stop being so hesitant to say yes to kindness.
***Note: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day. Please call 1-800-273-8255 if you are having suicidal thoughts.
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.