Nicole J. Phillips
Just when Darcy Barry should have been enjoying her senior year of high school and looking forward to future adventures, life threw her a fast-pitch curveball. On Dec. 23, 1981, she was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a condition that causes tumors to form in the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Step by step, Darcy has gone on to live a full, beautiful life, getting married and even running her own day care business. Now, years after her own diagnosis, Darcy is again taking one step after another to support other people with NF.
When my son started bringing home information about his sixth-grade graduation, I thought it was cute. There would be a ceremony and a class party and even some donated prizes. Then I found out some of the parents were giving their children gifts to celebrate the milestone. I am all for using any excuse possible to celebrate life with ice cream, but in our house, gifts are reserved for birthdays and major life events.
FARGO — I'm a pretty outgoing person. There are certainly things that heighten my anxiety, but talking to strangers isn't one of them. I have to remember that just because my comfort zone covers a four ZIP code-area, not everyone is wired the same way. For some people, making eye contact and sending out a genuine smile is enough to get those tummy butterflies in a tizzy.
Saul and I were young parents when the circus came to town. Only two of our three children had been born, and with both of them under the age of 5, it felt like we were living in a circus. Or at the very least, a zoo. We hiked the steps to our seats in the upper reaches of the Fargodome, diaper bag and two kids in tow. The minute we sat down, my daughter spotted the elephants in one of the side rings. Down the steps we went, catching one of the last rides before the show began.
My dog is lying upside down right now on an oversized chair in my home office. It's ridiculous to look over and see this 70-pound goldendoodle beast all sprawled out like she owns the place. She does this almost every morning, and it always makes me smile. I never get tired of my constant companion. There is something about a dog that is good for the soul, regardless of the age of the dog or the human. A woman recently sent me this story about the quick bond that was formed between her grandfather and his new friend.
There is a woman in my town who does a lot of good. I mean A LOT. She and her husband have been blessed with a successful local business, and they are constantly pouring into the community. The thing is, they do it so quietly, unless you're really paying attention and perhaps digging a little, you'd never know the identities of the "anonymous" donors. I happen to take a special interest in kindness and those who are radically loving others, both openly and incognito. I remember the kind things I hear people doing because I want to try out their ideas. Their kindness is contagious.
FARGO — I packed a bag lunch for my second grader this morning. Actually, he packed it for himself, but I stood guard making sure there was something other than sugar in his noontime meal. The last thing that kid needs right now is sugar. Ben is pumped so full of end-of-the-year adrenaline that I say a little prayer for his teacher each day as I usher my 8-year-old out the door. Field trips, final chapters during story time, throwing away old crayons and crumpled papers ... there is something special about the end of the school year.
Danette Jensen lives in Goodridge, Minn., about 70 miles from the Canadian border. She and her husband run DJ's K9 Country, a boarding facility with more than 20 kennels and a large training room. I guess you could say Danette is dog crazy. She is certainly an expert in the field. She has a radio show and people call in with their canine quandaries.
I have yet to meet someone who says, "Nope. I'm not a kind person and I have no intention of changing." We might agree that we have a little work to be done in the kindness area, but generally people seem to think they are doing a pretty good job of treating others well. In a study of 100 young people with gang affiliations, the kids rated their level of kindness as "high" and cited evidence such as, "I help my mom carry in the groceries." It's rare when we can both see our deficiencies and are also willing to do the work hard of changing ourselves for the better.
They say there are ties that bind, things that happen in our lives that leave us forever connected and intertwined with others. But what happens when decades begin to deteriorate our communication with those people? As Caryl Kiser from southeastern Ohio shares, those ties not only continue to hold, they grow stronger with each knot of kindness.