Every community has its prominent figures, and Aberdeen, S.D., is no different.
Don Meyer is a legendary basketball coach in these parts. In fact, there is a marble bust of Don just outside my husband’s door in the Northern State University basketball offices. My husband can see it staring through the window at him. No pressure, Saul. Just don’t disappoint Don.
Don is beloved as much for his struggles as for his successes. There is a section of the hospital named after him. Don used a wheelchair after a car accident and was later diagnosed with cancer.
But the building isn’t just named after Don. It’s also named after his wife. It’s called the Don and Carmen Meyer Center of Excellence, and it houses Avera’s comprehensive cancer services.
Don’s no longer with us, but Carmen is. If you want a powerful example of quiet and intentional kindness, look at Carmen.
Since the day we moved to town, Carmen has been clipping articles from our local newspaper and mailing them to us. Most recently, she sent my daughter an article about her high school debate team along with a little note at the top about how proud she was of Jordan.
We save each one.
Jan Sietsema Beyerl, of Clara City, Minn., wrote to tell me about a woman who used to do that for her family. Now she’s the one doing it for others.
"A woman from our church named Marie used to send all kinds of notes to us in our church mailbox. It was a cute idea — easy to drop off and it saves money on postage too.
"Marie would send notes when my son's name was in the local paper when he'd scored in a football or basketball game. My son is now 38 but he recently commented about those notes.
"In the era of Michael Jordan and the theme 'Be Like Mike,' I told others I wanted to be like Marie. These days, I try to keep the kindness going to people who make the news by just dropping them a little note.
"Marie always added extra flower or flag stickers to the outside of the envelopes and I find myself doing the same thing too.
"I have a 'Way to go!' card from Hallmark that seems to work well for most everything.
"In fact, I have to go and do some notes right now. The local editor just won two state awards for submissions and I gotta make up some special notes for Marie and a few others who are now in the local nursing home. It's called 'payback time!'"
Jan, Marie and Carmen remind me of the effects of intentional kindness. Instead of just thinking about a person, they take the next step and tell them through the mail.
We have email, text messages and social media, but sometimes it’s nice to go “old school” when we remind people they matter. Your kindness will surely be contagious.
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.