Have you seen this fantastically painted blue bus around town? If so, you might wonder what it’s all about. A “kindness” bus? Honestly, if this bus did nothing but park on the side of the road for days on end, it would still have an impact. So many wonderful messages painted by dozens of caring people supporting one man’s mission: to perform “one million acts of kindness” in his lifetime and encourage others to do the same.
After witnessing the horrific aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, Bob Votruba made a life-changing decision. He took a leap of faith, gave up his career as a home builder, sold all of his belongings, bought a bus and made this transportation his new home. Bob set a new goal for himself. Instead of building homes, he would build kindness. After doing the math, he figured out that if he performed 50 acts of kindness every day for 55 years, he would reach his goal of one million.
What are these acts of kindness? As Bob explained to me, they are both kind acts of the heart and physical acts of kindness. For example, as Bob and I were sitting at a picnic table in Lakewood Park, a woman walked by pushing a baby in a stroller. Bob took a few minutes and sent positive thoughts her way, like a prayer. He says he tries to do this throughout the day, mentally sending kindness to everyone he sees.
Bob and his rescue dog Bogart spread acts of kindness all over the United States. Originally from Ohio, Bob and Bogart spend their time between Ohio and Florida, living full time on the retrofitted Blue Bird. They speak at schools and colleges, and work with educators to create a kindness curriculum.
“Our goal is to reach out to children, teens and young adults when their minds are open and their personalities are developing,” says Bob. “We hope to teach them kindness, empathy and a generosity for others.” Bob and Bogart want to start a Kindness Generation.
Along with the Kindness Bus, Bob recently added a Kindness Bike to his journey. Whereas the bus is “warm and fuzzy,” the bike addresses issues such as domestic violence and bullying. Bob and Bogart are currently on a mission to ride 10,000 miles on a national tour dedicated to children with disabilities. The tour started in March and ends in December. Bob drives the Kindness Bus to various cities along U.S. coasts. Once he’s at the next stop, he pulls out his bike, complete with signage, and rides it around, raising awareness and spreading kindness.
Bob was inspired to ride by an 11-year-old girl who tragically took her own life after being relentlessly bullied because of facial nerve damage from her battle with cancer. According to Bob, “Bully-related suicide is 100 percent preventable with greater awareness, understanding, respect and kindness.”
As a mother of a special needs son, as well as two other children, this mission is especially important to me. Because of my son, I have had the pleasure to get to know some amazing children with “special” needs, as well as their families. “Special” doesn’t begin to describe the nature of these children. My son’s best friend of five years has Down Syndrome. While other kids distanced themselves from my son because of his “specialness,” she embraced him. She is the epitome of kindness and joy. I hope and pray that Bob and Bogart are successful in their mission, and that they can open the minds and hearts of young people nationwide.
Spread kindness! You don’t have to drive a bus. As the Greek storyteller Aesop said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Buy one of Bob and Bogart’s books and share it with others. Or order some bumper stickers to raise awareness for this great mission. View products here.
Although donations are accepted, Bob’s main focus is to spread kindness. Any donations are used for the mission, whether it’s fixing the bus or designing kindness stickers to share with others.