A letter came to my house the other day, but it wasn’t addressed to me. It was for a 12-year-old boy named Marcus.
No return address and stamped at a post office two states away. Hmmm.
“Hey, Marcus, you got some mail!” I yelled from my office.
“Me? Who’s it from?” he asked as he ambled into the room.
“No idea. Open it.”
As he peeled open the envelope and silently read the card, I got to witness all of the emotions of the world in his face. Curiosity, trepidation, and confusion turned into joy, pride and awe.
“Will you read it to me?” I asked as he stood there silently.
I could tell he was choked up and wasn’t surprised when he shook his head and said, “No. You read it.”
By the time I finished reading the anonymous letter, I was choked up too. Here is what it said.
“Dear Marcus, Ms. Nicole Phillips has written many stories about kindness, but my favorite was reading about you and the chicken you gave to the homeless family.
“You are going to do big things with your life, Marcus. I believe in you and know God has great plans. Hope you will use this gift to buy some ice cream.”
Inside that envelope was a crisp $50 bill.
The generous donor was referring to a column I had written on June 15, “Boy serves kindness with a side of chicken.” Marcus lives with his grandma. His mom is in prison and he doesn’t know his dad.
He had been given $25 from a family friend in honor of his sixth-grade graduation. Instead of spending that money on himself, Marcus bought a chicken dinner for a homeless family.
What nobody, including the anonymous donor, could have known was that the day after Marcus bought that dinner, his house burned down. Literally. To the ground. A few of his baseball trophies and photos were fine, and no one was hurt, but the house is gone.
Marcus is living with us while his grandma finds a new home.
The person who sent me the letter obviously knew I would know how to find Marcus. That person just didn’t know Marcus would be sitting on the couch in my living room.
I got a front-row seat to see what happens when someone breathes encouragement into a young person’s life. Let me tell you, it’s spectacular.
Marcus was stunned by the money, but he was immeasurably touched by the words. Those four sentences told Marcus that someone saw him. That his attempts to bring good into the world matter. That his challenging circumstances don’t define or defeat him, but instead build character and values.
Let me tell you a secret: There is a Marcus in your life. There is someone, young or old, who needs to know you see them. They are on a rough path and they need to hear words of affirmation.
You have those words to freely give. Please don’t hold them back.
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. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.