Allow me to step back in time just a bit as I lead into this story on kindness.
It was May 2014: After 10 years in Fargo, my husband accepted a job taking us to Ohio. We made the emotional decision to pull our children out of school and transplant them in Athens before the end of the academic year so they would have time to meet other kids before the summer break.
My children’s first day at their new elementary school happened to coincide with Grandparents’ Day. As divine intervention would have it, Grandma and Grandpa were in town helping us move into our house.
My momma heart could not have been any more grateful, knowing that my babies were going to find their new teachers, classrooms and classmates while holding the steady hand of a much-loved grandparent.
Teachers know that not every student has a grandparent available, so those kids get to invite a special friend instead. But when my in-laws came home after school that day, they told me that some of the students had nobody. No grandparent. No special friend. No one to listen to their poem. No one to compliment their artwork. We all just kind of shook our heads and made comments like, “How sad.”
This year, I got to be the special friend for all three of my kids. I was pretty sure I’d be one of the younger guests in attendance, so imagine my shock when I walked into a lobby filled with college students.
Nearly 35 members of the men’s baseball and women’s basketball teams from Ohio University had given up a day to be the surprise guests of their youngest fans.
You should have seen the kids’ faces light up when those athletes walked into their classrooms. Instead of being a day to swallow tears of loneliness, this became a banner day forever etched into many a young child’s mind.
I was standing in line at the book fair when I noticed a young man talking to several eager kids. I think the boys came up to his waist, but it was hard to tell because they were sort of hopping around. They couldn’t stand still, they were that excited. When it was time to pay, the baseball player pulled out his wallet and used his own money to buy each child a book.
Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day was about one incredible act of kindness after another, and it all came about because one woman saw what my in-laws saw and decided to fix the problem.
RaeAnna Smith has been to a lot of Grandparents’ Days. Her twin daughters are in high school now, but she still has kids in the elementary school. RaeAnna said it always made her sad to see the kids alone on Grandparents’ Day, so this year, she thought she’d do something about it. She used her “in” as the wife of the Ohio University baseball coach to convince the athletes to come to the school.
We all have an “in” that could make the day a little better for someone else, but how often do we use it? How often do we use our cooking skills to help out the neighbor who eats dinner alone? How often do use our free time to watch the child of an overburdened mother? How often do we see a need and think, “What can I do to help?” instead of simply saying, “How sad.”
I want to be more like RaeAnna. I want to be a person who looks for the solution, or at least the part of the solution that I can provide. You can be that person, too. All it takes is a little 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.