I’m just the lady who writes about kindness. That’s it. I’m not a social worker, educator or social activist. Yet, I’m often called to help in situations in which I feel totally helpless.
I was in school the other day when I spotted a kindergartner walking through the breakfast line. She saw me and her eyes lit up. After a big hug, she stepped back and solemnly said, “Miss Nicole, when I was waiting for the bus this morning, my mom pulled me back into the house and slapped my face a bunch of times.” As I looked at her delicate skin, I thought I could see one side that was still looking red and raw.
My heart broke. I wanted to scoop her up and bring her home with me to live happily ever after. Instead, I directed this hurting child to her teacher who was better equipped to handle the situation.
As I saw the little girl walk away holding her teacher’s hand, it was all I could do not to yell after her, “You are precious! You are valuable! Someone you love is very, very sick, but that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you!”
I got a long white envelope in the mail the other day. On the front in bold black letters were the words “Mailed from a Correctional Facility.” It’s not the first time I’ve gotten a letter from prison. Usually it’s from an inmate who wants to share a kindness story, but this time, it was from a woman who wanted help.
In a seven-page handwritten letter, she spelled out her story. She is awaiting trial for meth trafficking and a gun charge. While she admits to being a previous drug user, she says she is innocent of these particular crimes.
She went on to say that she had been working undercover on the Federal Task Force when she and her husband came across a 10-year-old child drugged up on heroin and nodding off in a car. She went on to give me specific locations and names of people involved in meth trafficking, child trafficking and a horrifying child brothel.
This is not in a seedy area of Los Angeles or a crime-filled neighborhood in New York. This woman says she saw these atrocities in western North Dakota. She wants me to help prove her innocence on these latest charges so she can continue fighting for the children who are being held captive.
Now, let’s just take a break from the heaviness for a moment so I can speak to the part of your brain that is perhaps saying, “Yeah right. She’s a con artist.” Maybe you’re even thinking of the little girl who said her momma slapped her and assuming kids exaggerate. I’m not judging. Those thoughts have floated across my mind, too.
There is always a but.
But what if they are telling the truth? What if a child is being abused and I gave her a hug and said, “Oh sweetie, go back to class. It’ll be OK.” Or what if there are children being sold for sex in rural North Dakota and I didn’t say anything?
Am I exempt because I’m not qualified to deal with these issues? Where does kindness start and where does it get to stop?
I’ve been wrestling with these issues. Maybe you have, too. Here’s the best advice I can give myself: Not every commission is my mission.
I have to choose to fiercely love and protect and show kindness to those in my particular mission field. When a call comes from another field, I have to do my best to alert others who are working in that particular area.
In these cases, that includes teachers and police. I’ve passed along the letter from the prison to several people who probably won’t be as shocked to receive it as I was. This is their mission field.
I love kindness, and while I have ideas of how to use it in our lives, I’m certainly not the expert on the subject. I’d love to hear your thoughts on better ways to handle these sorts of situations so we can all learn from each other. Join me online with your comments at www.facebook.com/NicoleJPhillips. Thank you.
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.