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A Christmas kindness story, part 1

Nicole Phillips, Kindness is Contagious columnist Photo courtesy Ann Fredricks Photography

It's our stories that build the color into our lives. Yes, there is often pain as they are being written, but without that pain we wouldn't know real joy.

I want to spend this week and next sharing the story of a mom and her teenage son, and the beauty that unfolded when one act of kindness led to the next.

"My son was a freshman in high school. I was a single mom. Money was always tight. It was December and I had less than $20 to fill the gas tank, put food on the table and keep money in my son's school lunch account until payday.

I was struggling with how best to stretch my dollar when my son bounced in the door and announced he needed a ride to HuHot Grill and $10 for dinner for his school's DECA meeting. Gah! $10 was almost all the money I had! As I looked into his innocent face, I didn't have the heart to say no.

There wasn't much to eat in the house, so I went through the couch cushions and coin purse to see if I could muster up enough to get a $.99 burger at Wendy's when I dropped him off at the party.

We headed to HuHot, him excited, me feeling the sinking desperation of a black hole I never seemed to get out of. I pulled in front of the restaurant and waved goodbye before heading to the drive-thru for my burger.

It was December in North Dakota, and it was bitterly cold. I pulled up and gave my order to the unappreciative voice coming out of the speaker.

I pulled forward to the window to pay and painstakingly counted out each coin, praying I didn't drop any on the floor.

Feeling frustrated with my slowness while he sat with his drive-up window open, the young man growled at me to 'hurry up' because it's cold. As I handed over my coins, I apologized but quipped back at him that perhaps it would be better if he wore his coat when he worked the drive-thru window in winter.

The young worker surprised me when he said he wished he could. He said he didn't have one after his dog chewed his to shreds. He had to walk a good distance to work, but was hopeful that in a few weeks he'd have enough money saved up to buy a coat.

Ugh — me and my smart-aleck mouth. I looked at his face and thought of how alone in the world he must be, if no one was around to help him buy a coat, in winter, in North Dakota.

Here I wanted him to have sympathy on me and my struggle, but the truth was, we both had struggles of our own.

I began to slowly pull away from the window, when my phone rang. It was my friend's husband who happened to be a pastor. I put down my burger and answered the call ... "

Next week, I'll share with you the stunning acts of kindness that unfolded when this struggling mom picked up the phone.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University's men's head basketball coach Saul Phillips. You can visit Nicole at " target="_blank">nicolejphillips.com.