Someone somewhere is grieving this holiday season. Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s someone you love.
It can be hard to know how our kindness will be received when we’re dealing with someone who is in incredible pain. After all, hurt people hurt people. If we reach out, we may end up resented, rejected or, worse yet, adding to our friend’s anguish.
But even the smallest step, the slightest lean into another person’s hurting heart, will remind them they are not alone.
Kourtney Johnson, of Mandan, N.D., used Christmas cookies as her love offering.
“OK, here goes my story. It’s been laying on my heart since it happened, but I always feel a little awkward sharing it.
"Halloween 2018 I received a text from our neighbor. It said her best friend's granddaughter had (died by) suicide. The granddaughter was only 13. I didn't know my neighbor's friend, nor have I met her, but I felt compelled to reach out to her, so I sent a note to the family just letting them know they were in our prayers and how sorry we felt for their loss.
"Fast forward two months to Christmas 2018. I still thought about her often, wondering if there was anything I could do, but also remembering that I didn't know this woman. What good could I really do for her?
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"Now, I love to bake, like LOVE to bake. I had decided to make Christmas cookies and pass them out to our neighbors. I made the cookies, made up the plates with cute labels and walked them around our neighborhood.
"When I stopped at our neighbor’s house (the one with the grieving friends), I handed her two plates and asked her to deliver one to her friend whose granddaughter had passed.
"Our neighbor almost got weepy as she told me her friend's family always made Christmas cookies to pass out to their neighbors, but this year they weren't going to do so. She expressed how grateful and surprised her friend would be and promised she'd deliver them the next day.
"A few days passed, and I just had to know how it turned out. Did they like the gesture? Did they find it weird? Finally, I asked.
"It turns out, the friend’s daughter was with them when our neighbor delivered the cookies and both were so touched they cried.
"I may never know the full impact of simple Christmas cookies, but I do know something moved me in a way I'd never felt before.
"I just wanted to brighten the day and show a little kindness to someone who's been hurting, and it ended up bringing lasting kindness into my life as well."
Kindness is like a secret pathway. We enter expecting to be the one giving, but we exit realizing how much we’ve been given in return.
I urge you to be brave this holiday season. Be the one who leans in to those hurting with a note, a hug or maybe a plate of Christmas cookies.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com.
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.