April 7, 2019

The Kindness Diaries


I have fallen in love...with a show on Netflix. So much so that I watched the first season two times in a row before moving to season two. With only a few more episodes to go I am already like a Game of Thrones fan: dreading the end. Season three is in the works, but when will it be available?

Hosted by an Englishman named Leon Logothetis, The Kindness Diaries is a desperately needed break from the murder, terrorist, widow, disaster shows that seem to dominate my watchlist. For 23 minutes, I am transported to an alternate world, one where kindness, altruism, caring about others, and living the way I believe we are meant to live dominates.

A former London stockbroker and now resident of Los Angeles, Leon travels the world depending entirely on the kindness of strangers to feed and house him. Season one had him journey around the world, in an old motorcycle with sidecar, named Kindness One. For season two he "upgraded" to a 50 year old yellow Beetle, dubbed Kindness Two, to drive from Alaska to Argentina. 

Each episode is one day in his life: getting total strangers to put gas in his vehicle, feed him, and allow him to spend a night in their home. Occasionally, he strikes out and must sleep in the motorcycle sidecar or back of the Bug. 

Obviously, with only 12 or 13 episodes large portions of each trip are not shown. But, I am convinced he accomplishes, more often than not, what he wants: to show the power of kindness, both receiving and giving. As is usually the case, those with the least resources are the ones most likely to share their meager food or home.

At the end of each episode he gives back, in a massive way, to someone who has been kind to him and, more importantly, the community in which they live. His gifts have ranged from free rent to a family for 3 years, to helping a young lady set up a charity. 

He has given enough money to an eye surgeon to perform 100 free sight-saving operations. He has provided a full year's worth of food to a man who hosts immigrants in his home every week. A homeless man  received housing and the money to complete a program that allowed him to become a chef. A retired couple in Panama pointed Leon to a man and his family who couldn't afford to even put a roof over part of their home because they refused to turn away anyone who needed help, spending what little money they had on others. Leon built them a new home.

Where does the money come from? Originally, it was all his own money. He has given away $200,000 from his own pocket so far. Interestingly, his family owns a billion-dollar shipping company but The Kindness Project has come only from Leon.

Now, based on the success of the Netflix show and several well-received books he has written, he has the resources to spread kindness on a scope that one man couldn't do on his own. Yes, there is a camera crew that accompanies him but doesn't appear to share the humble lodgings Leon often does. But, that does not make the premise and the impact of what he is doing any less real or moving.

Seeing the smiles on the faces of those who are so willing to help him makes me smile, too. Seeing the utter bliss that overcomes the person or couple who receive the gift at the end moves me to tears. It leaves me feeling so much better about the future of humanity and the power of love for others.

My only gnawing frustration is wanting to follow his lead, spreading kindness in whatever (more humble) way I can. So far, I have yet to figure out how. Traveling around the world or giving away $200,000 worth of kindness is not part of my world.

As The Kindness Diaries makes clear, the openness to listen to and care about others is really at the heart of the issue.

If you haven't experienced the rush this program can cause in even the most callus among us, please watch this trailer and then start binge-watching. You might be motivated to become your own kindness project where you live.

And, if you have any suggestions for me, I would be very appreciative. I really want to do this.


21 comments:

  1. I'm with you. Bob. That was an inspired and inspiring post. Thank you so much for telling us about it. Wouldn't it be great to be able to do this too?! Like you, I'm looking for opportunities to be generous, firstly on a small scale, then growing as resources and opportunities permit.

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    1. Leon makes the point that virtually all of the people he encounters who are truly kind are exhibiting that trait in their own backyard. There is no need to travel the world, or even much farther than the edges of your own hometown.

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  2. Bob, my takeaway from your post comes down to a quote from Mother Teresa: "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." This quote resonates with me because I'm an introvert who would find it extremely difficult to put myself out there like Leon does.

    You do not strike me as a guy who truly needs suggestions regarding kindness but, since you asked, here are mine . . . Pay for the next person in line at the coffee shop drive thru. Match up the things in your home that you're no longer using with the "best fit" charity (worn out blankets and towels to the SPCA, unused toiletries to homeless or domestic abuse shelters, etc.). If a staff member at any kind of business treated you exceptionally well find the manager right then and there to tell him or her. Check in on a lonely widow or widower in your neighborhood who has no family members nearby. Deliver a batch of homemade cookies to your local police, fire or EMS department. Pick up litter in a local park. Take the time to handwrite a letter of praise or encouragement to someone who deserves or needs it. Smile at everyone you meet during the day. Drop off a box or two of doughnuts to the auto service department that always treats you well and takes good care of your vehicle. Better yet, do all of these things with your children or grandchildren. In the end, teaching them to be kind to others may be the greatest kindness of all.

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    1. On of his episodes includes a scene with a statue of Mother Teresa and that quote.

      I really like the idea of doing some of these things with my grandkids. What a powerful lesson.

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    2. Mary says it all. It isn't at all difficult to find ways to spread kindness. I give to two charities every month, worked at a food bank for seven years and allow myself an extra $25 each month to do something local. Last month I split the $25 between girl scout cookies (gave cookies back to the sellers) and filling the fireman's boot charity. I love it.

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    3. I was on my way into Home Depot this past weekend when a Boy Scout asked for a donation. I waved him off. As as soon as I get inside the store I realized what I had done, turned around, went back outside, talked to him for a minute and made a donation.

      Often the problem is we see a way to be kind or help but are too focused on ourselves to respond.

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  3. Great Post! I have it book marked to watch! Each person has he/her own talent and personality. We all have ways to give back. I believe that the most profound act of kindness is when the person least expects it. The size of the act dosen't matter. Kindness comes in many forms. So far this year, I have dropped off tolietries at a women's shelter, dog food to the Humane society, house goods to good will, offered a spare bedroom(over the garage) to a young couple for a weekend stay, began volunteering at the humane society, donated to a chairty organization in my neighborhood and feed the birds. Some additional things that I plan on doing this year are: help a family member move, babysit for a young couple in my neighborhood, offer my CSA to a neighbor when I am out of town, donate magazines to a senior center.

    Paula

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    1. What a great list to choose from. Thanks, Paula. You have given me some new ideas.

      I completely agree: bestowing kindness when it is completely unexpected can have the biggest impact on the receiver and the giver.

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  4. This is not meant to pat myself and/or Deb on the back, but just to give some ideas on what we do on a regular basis to make the world (hopefully) a little brighter, like the gentleman in the show is doing. BTW, I'll have to check out an episode or two soon to get the feel for the show:

    -Always send comments to corporate offices and surveys from establishments we frequent, pointing out specifically people who deserve praise. You would be surprised how many people figure out it is us and tell us how much it meant to them (plus, there are contests oftentimes that they can benefit from).

    -If there are men or women in blue behind us in a restaurant we try to pick up the tab for them without them knowing. Sometimes the owner will tell them and they are very appreciative, which makes both our and their day.

    -I decided to ramp up my cash donations starting last year to the two local charities we think most highly of, both the mens and womens shelters. To be honest I get a lot more out of it than they can imagine, since I know both are doing God's work in the community, literally.

    -I am not the biggest proponent of encouraging panhandlers, but occasionally Deb or I feel we have been called to help someone specifically who we met. I think most people know when they are and we try to respond to those situations.

    -When we lived in Syracuse we were fortunate to be in a place that very actively pursued both recycling initiatives as well as state of the art ways to reduce anything going to landfills, such as a huge trash burning facility that also generated power. Moving to smaller town TN I expected the worst but was pleasantly surprised to find that even in this area we have an outstanding recycling program, including not only the basics but oils of all types as well. We do everything we can to recycle and hold down waste, and last year I started composting which has kept most of our food scraps out of the waste stream.

    I think many/most of us do more than we think to help make the world a better place, and I look forward to reading tips from other folks here to incorporate into our lives.

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    1. Now that Betty and I have started a smallish vegetable garden for the first time, composting would be a logical next step. Our town hands out old trash cans, with holes drilled in them for air circulation, for those who do want to compost.

      Every one of your ideas is doable by any of us. And, I agree that many of us are already practicing kindness without even being aware of it. That is a real blessing.

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  5. Have not heard of this show, but it sounds very uplifting. Thanks for sharing it...I'll check it out.

    Great ideas in the comments. I'm on board with several of them, and like you, I think many of your readers are the type of folks who are already doing many acts of kindness when we start to list them. Another lovely post!

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    1. The ideas offered are good ones. I always find inspiration from great comments on this blog. So far, there have been several ways to show both kindness and caring that I never would have thought of.

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  6. Thanks for the tip. We just finished watching "The Widow" on amazon, and so we're ready for something more uplifting.

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    1. The Widow was very well done, but rather intense. The Kindness Diaries is very different.

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  7. Bob, Check out this video about kindness and the butterfly effect from Steve Hartman at CBS: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/proving-the-butterfly-effect-with-a-single-act-of-kindness/

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    1. That is exactly what Leon (and I) are talking about. Some people call it "paying forward." Others, the butterfly effect. Others, simply an act of kindness to another human being.

      Whatever the label, the effect on both the giver and the receiver can be profound. Thank you, Jean, for passing on this powerful example.

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  8. Wow...Leon read this post and thanked me for spreading the word on kindness. How cool.

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  9. Real hope for our future: I asked my three grandkids what "Kindness means to me." Their answers brought a smile to my face and a real glow to my heart. 8 year old Kassi said, "Kindness means nice, friendship, being nice to people, standing up for people.” 11 year old Kaylee thought, "Giving (what they need) to someone in need – a friend, help, love." and my 12 year old grandson, Josh said, ""Doing something nice even if no one is watching."

    They have kindness figured out

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  10. I believe that opportunities to be kind are all around us, embedded in our everyday life. It means taking those extra few moments to stop and exchange a few words with someone, noticing when someone does something nice for you and thanking them, noticing what someone needs to hear or have done for them and saying or doing it, and being ready to serve within the community, even when it might not be convenient or comforatable for you. It doesn’t mean grand gestures or giving away heaps of money, necessarily. In fact, sometimes those grand gestures are more about the giver’s ego than the helped person’s need.

    Jude

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    1. Excellent summary, Jude. I agree the small gestures, courtesies, and simply listening to someone are powerful tools in battling much of what makes society more disconnected and mean-spirited than it needs to be.

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