|The colorful cover speaks volumes about what's inside.|
Leon Logothesis's story, chronicled in The Kindness Diaries, begins in a way that sounds familiar. Many people I've met or read about find themselves with wanderlust as their affliction because they're determined to break out of what most of us would deem a successful existence in search of something more meaningful. People who seem to have everything figured out, and who've followed traditional paths that brought them wealth, stability and/or fame. Existential crisis after existential crisis leaves Leon in a desperate search for human connection, and we meet him in The Kindness Diaries after he's explored a unique way to medicate his wanderlust - through kindness.
After what he describes as a turning point moment on the streets of Los Angeles, Leon decides to travel around the world by asking strangers for shelter, gas, and food. Crazy, right? Maybe not. It's not the first time he's made a significant life change in an effort to become more whole. He leaves his girlfriend Lina behind, despite her questioning his "existential cliff diving," in favor of a yellow motorbike dubbed Kindness One and for the open road. The open road, in Leon's case, takes many forms. From the streets of Los Angeles to a container ship in the Atlantic Ocean, to eastern Europe, Vietnam, Cambodia, and everywhere in between, Leon chases his dream across the entirety of planet Earth.
Along the way, Leon meets a host of people, both kind and unkind. There are numerous people who decline Leon's request for help. But then, there's Gus, who's been shaving ice in a Pittsburgh park for 65 years. There's Tony, who stays up all night picking bugs off of Leon's blankets while he sleeps on the streets. There's a man in Montenegro who's family has farmed the same land for 20 generations. There's Barik in India who runs an orphanage for children. They all helped, they all showed kindness. Through Leon's storytelling, I felt as though I got to know each of them as well as he did.
At each stop along his journey, Leon works to give back to those who show him kindness. Without giving too much away, (pun intended), it becomes clear that he hopes to help those he meets who've forgotten their dreams, or didn't know they had dreams to begin with. Tony is given the chance to participate in a certificate program to learn to cook. The man in Montenegro and his family receive a cow, a precious resource. The library in Barik's orphanage receives 1,000 books.
Over the course of the The Kindness Diaries' 248 pages, we get to know a man who's lost, who's been lost before, who accepts that he's lost, and chooses to self medicate in one of the most productive ways I can think of. Initially, I found the book difficult to get into. I found the concept, even the name of the motorbike, just a little bit silly. The Kindness Diaries felt like part self-help book, part Undercover Boss, and some of the writing seemed a bit dramatic.
But the more I read, the more I connected with Leon and the people he met, and the more I cared for all of them. These people with whom Leon exchanged kindnesses are real people with real stories that will make you cry, laugh, worry, even perhaps hope, just a bit. It's a memoir, but it's also an incredibly travel story filled with mishaps, misfortune, and misadventure. Leon has a special type of confidence and belief in his dream, and that's something we can all learn from.
Though at times, Leon's writing style wasn't exactly my cup of tea, it's refreshing to read about someone who truly hasn't forgotten the value of simple acts of kindness. It's not a gimmick to Leon, nor should it be to any of us, and if nothing else, I found myself inspired to do more good things. So, then, if Leon's goal was to "ignite goodwill," as the book's dust jacket suggests, he did so, at least a little bit, in me.
Win A Copy of The Kindness Diaries!If Leon's story sounds like one you'd like to read, you're in luck - I have two copies of the book to give away! Enter using any method below. Two winners will be chosen at random. Please be sure to leave some method of contact so we can get in touch if you win. Good luck! (Open to United States residents only.) And a huge thanks to Leon's team for providing both complimentary copies for me to give away. Learn more about Leon and his writings here.
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