I met Tom at the gym 10 years ago. In his mid-70s, he was bold enough to say what he thought.
“Young lady, you’re the one writing that new column in the paper, right? 'Kindness is Contagious'? I want to tell you I’m praying for you. When you do God’s work, the enemy takes notice. But keep going. What you’re doing is very important.”
His words made me pause because they were sort of scary. The enemy is going to notice me? That doesn’t sound awesome.
I kept writing and in the midst of the last 10 years, there have been times I seriously considered giving up. The enemy wins. It isn’t worth it. People aren’t listening. They are more interested in criticizing my storytelling, my bio line at the bottom of each column and the profile picture at the top.
My husband would say, “Nic, think of how miserable a person must be to criticize the lady who writes about kindness.” That always put my perspective back in place. This column isn’t meant to be about me — it’s meant to give hope to hurting people. Sometimes I just get caught in the crossfire of that hurt.
But like Tom, I’ve had some angels along the way. Like Mrs. Johnson, who wrote me sweet letters of encouragement from the time I started writing until the day she died.
And Bob Lind, a fellow Forum columnist ("Neighbors") who always reached out when a particular story caught his fancy.
And my incredible Forum Communications Co. family who agreed that the columns might make a nice book. First in 2016, and then again in 2018.
If the enemy was angry about some little kindness column, it wasn’t about the space it was taking in the paper, it was about the change it was creating in me.
When I began writing this in 2011, I was an alcoholic. I functioned, but my thoughts about myself and life in general were medicated each night with a bottle of rum.
Writing a weekly column means you have to write it each week. I had to get really good at noticing the kindness happening around me. Whether as the giver, receiver or witness, my brain had to hold onto the smallest details so I could share the story with our readers.
The more my eyes fixed on kindness, the less they fixated on my pity party. Within one year of being intentional about kindness, I had quit drinking, quit smoking, lost 30 pounds and fallen in love again with my husband.
Radical changes. All because of kindness. And I owe it to this column.
This will be my last submission for "Kindness is Contagious." I have loved reading the stories you’ve sent. Thank you for making my inbox the happiest inbox in the world.
I feel God pulling me in a new direction and it fills me with excitement. I haven’t quite figured out the final destination, but I know sometimes you have to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best. (Thank you, Lysa TerKeurst, for that wisdom.)
Before I go, I want to tell you one more time the secret that changed my life: Kindness isn’t about them, it’s about you. The life you transform with kindness is your own.
Thank you for 10 years of kindness.
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.