Have you ever noticed that when you get something stuck in your mind you start seeing it everywhere?

When I gave up drinking, every billboard I drove past for at least a month was advertising some sort of alcoholic beverage.When Saul and I started thinking about getting a security system for the new house, it seemed like we had a non-stop loop of ADT commercials on our television and every story on the news was about a home burglary.

Life seems to work like that. Whatever we focus on becomes bigger.

So today I’d like to ask you, what are you looking at?

Is it ISIS, domestic violence, human trafficking, poverty, hunger or just plain evil in general?

Or is it love? And kindness? And beauty amid the troubles surrounding us?

If your mind is on the decay of our society, you will notice that our society is decaying. If your mind is trained to zero in on the tiny acts of kindness lighting up a very dark world, you will notice the light.

I use the word “trained” because that’s how it worked for me. I’ve been writing this column for three years. When I began, I had to intentionally look for acts of kindness (and then pounce on the people involved) so I had something to write about each Saturday.

Very quickly, my mind became “trained” to notice people holding open doors, speaking kindly in contentious situations and going out of their way to help wherever it was needed.

Then I took the next step. When I wasn’t seeing kindness, I created it, and kindness became the key that unlocked forgiveness, passion and healing in my life. I believe it continues to keep me healthy, which is why it’s so important to me to keep it at the forefront of my mind.

As much as I focus on kindness, I’m starting to notice a disappointing trend. People around me are becoming scared and discouraged. They seem to feel the darkness closing in around them and are thinking that the little they can do for others will never be enough.

I don’t see it that way. When I close my eyes, I see all of the people on Earth standing and staring at the sky. Only they aren’t looking at the real sky, they are looking at a huge black tarp blocking out the light. Each time someone does an act of kindness, a tiny pin-sized hole is poked into that big, black tarp, allowing in a speck of light.

Someone notices the light and does another act of kindness, creating yet another little hole. Someone sees that new light, realizes what is happening and starts creating more little openings for light through their own acts of kindness.

I see my job, through writing this column, as pushing my fingernails through those pin-sized holes and ripping them open with all of my might. I want to allow in as much light as possible, by drawing attention to the acts of kindness being done.

That’s why I love it when people share with me the kindness they see around them, because it gives me the chance to rip open that tiny dot of light and share it with many more people.

Little by little, we will light up the whole sky with kindness, and it will be impossible to deny all the warmth and beauty shining down on us.

But the question remains, as you stand there, looking up at that big black tarp, what do you see? Darkness? Or light? Your focus makes all the difference.

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.