Nicole Phillips, Published December 07 2012
Kindness is Contagious: Man’s generosity comes one foot at a time
Yep, I said it – feet.
I’ll be honest. I hadn’t really taken much notice of my husband’s feet until recently when I saw a poster advertising them.
That poster was enough to make me fall in love all over again.
Saul is North Dakota State University men’s head basketball coach, and Sunday he will be at the Fargodome coaching the game against the University of North Dakota in his bare feet.
My husband’s feet will be on full display to remind people that kids are dying from diseases they are catching because they don’t have shoes.
Saul is teaming up with an organization called Samaritan’s Feet. The group has already given shoes to more than 4 million kids worldwide.
Did you know this amazing movement was ignited in many ways because of the acts of kindness done right here in North Dakota and Minnesota?
Let me share with you the story of a 9-year-old boy growing up in Nigeria, named Manny Ohonme.
“While many other kids were busy playing sports after school, I was typically charged with helping my mom bring in extra income by selling drinks in the park by my home,” Ohonme says.
“While there one day selling water to tired athletes, I stepped into my destiny when I saw a group of missionaries teaching children how to play basketball.
“The missionaries taught us how to shoot, dribble and pass, and after a while held a shooting contest, with the prize being a pair of tennis shoes.
”By some miracle I won the contest. I ran home so fast that I forgot my basket of water. That day, I became the first person in my family to own a pair of tennis shoes.”
Those shoes allowed Manny to develop his love of basketball, which eventually earned him a full scholarship to UND-Lake Region.
That’s where the rest of Manny’s story unfolds.
“I showed up in Devils Lake in the winter of 1993 not knowing a soul.
“I started walking on the side of the road from the Greyhound Bus Station to the college, cold and shivering, when a family by the name of Moser drove by. They took me to the college and found out that the dorms were closed. When I couldn’t get a hold of my coach, they took me to their home. They fed me and introduced me to American cuisine … I will NEVER forget that day.
“My experience in North Dakota and the generosity I’ve received has stayed with me all these years and molded me into the man I’ve become today.
“I learned to ranch and branch calves from my best friend Chad Dahlen in Haliday, N.D.
“I met my wife, Tracie, while attending UND-LR.
“Steven Keenan and his family invited me to stay with them in Fargo for a summer after meeting them at First Assembly Church.
“When I transferred to Concordia College, Lyle and Joyce Janke took me in.
“Isn’t it amazing how God weaves our lives with those of others into a beautiful to tapestry of blessings? I’m so thankful to be a part of the threads.”
Manny earned a master’s degree from NDSU and landed an executive position in a supply chain technology company, but he never forgot the boys and girls in Africa who were still living under the strain of poverty. Manny took the kindness he experienced in North Dakota and left the comfort of his executive position to begin Samaritan’s Feet.
To date, more than 3,000 coaches across the country have joined the Barefoot Coaching Movement at the recreational, high school, collegiate and professional sports levels.
This weekend, the North Dakota kindness shown to a young man from Africa is coming home.
It costs $10 to buy a new pair of shoes for a child through Samaritan’s Feet. You can help in three ways: log onto tiny.cc/coachphillips, text SHOES to 85944, or make a donation at the 4 p.m. game at the Fargodome.
And don’t forget to check out my handsome husband. He will be showing off his beautiful feet just to remind you that kindness is contagious.
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 Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.
Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo, and currently the executive director of Diva Connection Foundation. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her columns, exclusively for The Forum, run every Saturday.