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.
Sure, the kids are moving from the elementary school to the middle school, but as we gently explained to our son and his sister (who was graduating from eighth grade), we sort of expect you to make it all the way through high school. Once that's done, we'll talk about gifts.
Luckily for another sweet boy I know, other families have other traditions.
Marcus, a fellow sixth-grade graduate, was given $25 by a family friend for the occasion.
Now, I should pause and tell you that Marcus doesn't have a lot of excess in his life. He's never known his father, his mother is in prison and his grandma does what she can each day to keep the family afloat.
In this kid's eyes, a $25 cash gift is a windfall.
Marcus did what all kids in our town do when they find themselves suddenly wealthy: he took his loot to Walmart.
As his grandma pulled into the parking lot, Marcus noticed a family sitting on the curb with a sign indicating they were homeless.
Marcus carried on and headed into Walmart on a mission to find something spectacular, but as he looked at aisle after aisle of games and toys, he couldn't get that family out of his mind.
Eventually he gave up and headed over to the deli counter. That's where he found a warm, pre-cooked chicken dinner.
With only his little brother in tow, Marcus bravely took the chicken to the cash register, paid for it with his graduation money, and then walked out of the store.
He headed straight for the homeless family and quietly handed them their next meal.
The exchange was brief and nearly silent. Marcus isn't much for words, but I'm certain his actions spoke quite loudly to everyone who witnessed the series of events.
After that, Marcus got back into his grandmother's car and asked her to stop at Wendy's so he could buy his little brother a Frosty. Ice cream seemed to be an appropriate way to top off such a special afternoon.
When I asked Marcus about that day, he didn't have a lot to say. He said he just saw a need and knew that he could fill it, so he did.
I asked him why he bought the family food instead of giving them cash. I could see the wisdom of a boy who has seen much of the darker side of life.
"I wanted to make sure they didn't spend the money on bad decisions," he said.
Ah. I let those words settle in my mind and in my heart.
Despite knowing the hurts and needs and temptations of this world, in one brave and kind move, Marcus proved that kindness is a powerful antidote.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.