Nicole J. Phillips
Back when my now-teenage daughter was 7 or 8, we got to experience the grand tradition of Girl Scout cookie sales. I don't know how it works these days, but back then we had to estimate how many cookies we could sell and then order them in advance. Jordan has always been a go-getter and this experience was no exception. She set her sights high and was about 80 boxes short of reaching her goal. Translation: we had 80 boxes of Girl Scout cookies sitting in our trunk that we needed to either sell or pay for ourselves.
"It's not a person, it's just a dog." I remember thinking those words when I had to put my beloved Robby Dog to sleep several years ago. It didn't seem right to have such intense grief, and yet there it was. Anyone who has lost a pet understands in an instant the immense loneliness that comes when you walk into the room expecting a warm, furry greeting and all you get is silence. When Kelli Slominski recently lost her companion, it was kindness that saw her through.
In the beginning of January, Rebecca Somers boarded a plane in State College, Pa., heading for Detroit, Mich. She had no idea that what she was about to witness on that airplane would give her a voice reaching hundreds of thousands of people, reminding them to hold on to kindness. Here's her story.
Super Bowl Sunday: the best time of year to buy a big-screen TV or football-themed paper plates. The hype behind the biggest game of the year has become its own beast. This year, the cost of one of those 30 second commercials we all love to watch will go for $7.7 million. Yikes. Back in 1990, a seminary intern at a church in South Carolina said a little prayer: "Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat."
I've mentioned before that my husband affectionately calls me Gordon Leadfoot when I drive. It's his humorous (to him) way of combining one of his favorite musicians with my tendency to always be in a hurry. Several speeding tickets to my name, I've gotten much better at obeying the law, but there are still times when I feel like my absolute need to be somewhere creates a valid reason to speed. I know. I'm sorry to all the law enforcement officers reading this. I'm wrong. I'm working on creating better habits.
Some emails are just too awesome for words. Last Friday, the day my story ran about the woman who left her purse at a Tennessee airport, I got this message: "What a very nice story about Jean Clemens losing her purse and her happy ending. You are a blessing to others by letting them know there is still goodness in our crazy world. Keep up the good job (your ministry reaches far). "P.S. I LOVE Chippers!—Janet Foreman-Green"
My purse was stolen when I was in college. A few years later, it happened again. Was it my fault? Absolutely. I had been careless both times. The grief I felt came from a sense of being personally violated, but it also stemmed from something larger. I had believed in my heart that people were good, but good people didn't steal purses. So was I wrong about humanity? Luckily, in the 20-plus years since those experiences, I have witnessed the kindness of people again and again. My faith in humankind has long since been restored.
It's humbling to realize that while I was sitting on the living room floor watching my kids tear into the colorful assortment of presents under the Christmas tree, other lives were unfolding simultaneously in ways much different than mine. Jayne Holtgrewe of Moorhead spent her day nursing her husband back to health after he experienced a terrible fall. But instead of grieving for what has happened or what may be to come, Jayne's heart is full of gratitude. She knows that the right people in the right place at the right time saved her husband's life.
Last week, I shared part one of the story of a single mom struggling to make ends meet with her teenage son. It's the backdrop of pain in our lives that gives our joy such brilliance. And often, it's receiving an act of kindness at just the right time that spurs us to do the same for others. Here's the conclusion of our story. "I had just spent the 99 cents scraped from my couch cushions on my burger when my phone rang. My mind was still on the young man working at the drive-thru, wearing just a T-shirt because he didn't have enough money to buy a coat.
It's our stories that build the color into our lives. Yes, there is often pain as they are being written, but without that pain we wouldn't know real joy. I want to spend this week and next sharing the story of a mom and her teenage son, and the beauty that unfolded when one act of kindness led to the next. "My son was a freshman in high school. I was a single mom. Money was always tight. It was December and I had less than $20 to fill the gas tank, put food on the table and keep money in my son's school lunch account until payday.