My kindness story begins with the two kindest people I know, Wayne and Linda Vanderploeg, but I know them as Dad and Mom. I grew up with the most amazing kindness mentors. My parents were always reaching out to those in need, responding to the needs of others before their own needs, and helping in so many countless ways throughout the community. It wasn't surprising to share a holiday meal with someone who was alone. It was pretty normal to go on "grocery runs," where we would run into a new parent's home with bags full of groceries; to reach out to neighbors and friends with a pan of warm brownies or their favorite cookies; to help deliver clothes, home goods, or other items for families with nothing; to stop whatever it was we were doing to just listen and be present in the moment to someone who needed a friend. Our family wasn't wealthy in terms of money, but the goodness was always overflowing and my parents always reminded us to be the people we want others to be.
On November 20, 2018, my parents lost everything they owned in a devastating fire. Their home of 45 years, all of their belongings, vehicles, money, identification, family photographs, and beloved antique furnishings that filled our home were all lost in just a few short hours. As we stood and watched our home burn, friends and neighbors reached out to my parents, asking them how they could help. Their answer was simple: "Ring a bell." You see, my mom has been in charge of the Salvation Army's bell ringing program in our small community for many years. She always has a difficult time getting anyone to sign up to fill the times. This year, that all changed. People came from all over to help ring the bells and those not living in their community reached out in their own communities to ring bells throughout the state. But my parents' message was bigger than that: Do what you can to make the world a better place. They were in need of so very much, but their spirit of giving never wavered. There are others out there that are in need; others that are hurting, feel isolated, and are lonely. Never forget to reach out to them. Be the kind of "KIND" that you want to see in the world.