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Kindness is Contagious: Kindness rewrites people's stories

FARGO -- We never really know what someone’s going through, do we?

The clerk at the grocery store who stands on her feet all day and then goes home to take care of an ailing parent. The teacher who pours lessons of kindness and sharing into beautiful little hearts and then realizes she’s been sharing her husband with another woman. The teen who spews anger and disrespect throughout the hallways of his school because his self-talk tells him he’s too stupid to learn.

We just never know someone’s backstory, which is why it’s so important to give people back a new story. We can react to people the way they react to us. We can play eye for an eye and spend our lives feeling resentful. We can assume people are out to get us when in reality we’re just the closest target.

That’s sort of how the world expects us to react. But what if instead of being offended every time someone gives us an attitude, we create a new story for their day?

My friend, Dawn, got into a car accident. She moved her eyes off the road to put her soda back in the holder and that was the exact moment the traffic stopped. She rear-ended the car in front of her and spent the next 45 minutes exchanging insurance and contact information.

This was a blow to Dawn. She doesn’t have any money for car repairs or an increase in insurance premiums. This was about to become a story of a day that went all wrong. Not long after the accident, Dawn got a card in the mail. It was from the guy she hit. Here’s what it said:

“Dawn, I’m the guy you crashed into on Monday. I just felt you needed a little help. Here’s some money to help with repairs to your car.” — Carl, Galatians 6:2.

Carl enclosed a check for $500. Dawn was beside herself. She works at Arby’s and struggles to make ends meet, so this money was a great help. Dawn said even more important than the money was the way this man had restored her faith in humanity.

What Carl didn’t know is that Dawn is a recovering drug addict. She lost decades of her life and for a long time, a relationship with her children. She is clean now, and I’ve gotten to watch her miraculous recovery over the past four years. She is a beacon of hope for other people who are struggling with addiction.

Dawn says she reread the note and was curious about what Galatians 6:2 meant, so she found a Bible and looked it up. It says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (NIV)

Carl helped Dawn rewrite her story. He reminded her she’s not alone.

Whether big or small, when we lead with kindness, we create stories for ourselves and for others that are filled with happy endings.

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.

Nicole J. Phillips, a former Fargo television anchor, is a speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Athens, Ohio, with her three children and her husband, Ohio University Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.