I’ve noticed something over the past nine years of writing this column: Acts of Christmas kindness seem to have a special ability to stay with us throughout years and even decades.
Two women have shared just those types of kindness with me in the following stories. The first is from Gretchen Robinson, from South Hill, Va.
“My kindness story happened on Christmas Eve 2004. As my husband, Bernard, and I were preparing to celebrate Christmas with our 6-year-old son and newborn daughter, we reflected on how Christmas would be a little different for us that year.
"We had started our own business and our daughter was born in November, five weeks early. With the expenses of running a business and trying to make ends meet, Christmas would be a small one. We counted our blessings that we had two healthy children, a warm home and food on the table.
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"That evening, Bernard got a call asking him to leave our van unlocked, which my husband did.
"A short time later, there was a sound on the front porch and the door bell rang. We were not expecting visitors and were quite surprised to find Christmas gifts on our front porch with a note saying ‘Do not open until Christmas.’
"On Christmas morning, we opened the gifts we had under the tree along with the surprise gifts. There was a toaster oven for Bernard and I and a baby playmat with toys for our newborn daughter.
"Bernard was quite curious about the phone call the night before and went to check on the van.
"What he found was a brand-new bike for our son.
"To this day we do not know who left those gifts, but we are so thankful for the kindness shown to us that Christmas.
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Debbie Riveland, from Breckenridge, Minn., shared this story with me about her Christmas angel.
"Our son, Joey, got killed in a car accident north of Watertown, S.D., on Oct. 17, 2004. About six weeks later I decided to go to Fargo to do some Christmas shopping. I wanted a wreath for his grave so I went to Menards. As I was walking around the Christmas decorations, I started crying.
"I picked up a few more items and started to the front of the store to pay. When I put my items on the cashier’s conveyor, she looked at me and asked what was the matter.
"I told her I had just lost my son. Then she told me she had lost her husband and son the year before in a car accident. Then she asked me my name. I told her. She simply said, ‘Debbie, I will be praying for you.’
"Was she an angel? I don't know. Will I be able to pick her out of a crowd? Not even to save my life, but I do know one thing. I will hold her in my heart until my last breath. Her kindness was a special gift for me that Christmas."
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole J. Phillips, a former Fargo television anchor, is a speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Aberdeen, S.D., with her three children and her husband, Saul Phillips, the head men's basketball coach at Northern State University. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.