Does what I do matter?

Have you ever thought that to yourself?

Perhaps you’ve been in the checkout lane when the cashier asks if you’d like to donate a dollar to end world hunger. Or maybe you’ve dropped off old towels and blankets so they could be sent to some area of devastation overseas. Most recently, I was asked to donate bottles of water to the hurricane victims.

Does the little bit we do for others make a difference? It’s hard to know when the solution is slow coming and we never actually see the people benefitting.

How or why we’re helping can get a little hazy.

Willard Hiebert of Moorhead had the amazing opportunity to hear directly from someone who had been the recipient of others’ goodwill. It happened more than 50 years ago, but Willard still remembers it today.

“In the spring of 1964, I was an exchange student at the J.G. University in Mainz, Germany. One evening I went to hear a speech by the U.S. ambassador to Germany in the largest room at the university. The room was packed. The ambassador gave his speech on the goals of U.S. aid around the world and used the term ‘benevolence’ in it.

After the speech during a question and answer exchange, a student from an African country stood up and challenged the ambassador saying that what the U.S. was doing wasn’t benevolence at all but more or less a bribe for loyalty.

As I recall, before the ambassador could answer, an older German man got up and said the following: ‘After the war (WWII) we had little food to eat and very few clothes. We were hungry and cold. Then the care packages started to arrive from America. They were a godsend and I call that benevolence.’

He sat down but the whole audience of German students who had experienced that era first hand rose of one accord and applauded wildly. I was never so proud to be an American!

Almost every time I tell this story the listeners get tears in their eyes. In my opinion, this simply shows that kindness is the best diplomacy.”

It wasn’t just one person’s generosity the man received after the war, but the collective, powerful kindness of a whole country. It made an impact that spanned the decades.

The next time your heart tells you to help, but you’re wondering if it even matters, I hope you remember there is someone out there who is grateful that you care.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at 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. You can visit Nicole at