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Gabriella van Rij in her iCamper
Sep 30, 2019

A Pause, Not the End

What an amazing experience this tour has been so far. I have arrived at the end of September 2019 in the Midwest and feel this is the moment to push the pause button on myself.

This does not mean at all that the Dare To Be Kind World Tour is at an end. As the founder, I just need a tiny bit of rest. For the last 11 months, I have been on the road, driving from state to state, place to place, and after having driven close to 19,000 miles it is time for a big, well-deserved rest.

It is not so much only physical rest, but emotional rest as well. I have gained such huge respect for all the men and women on the road who sit in trucks and vans and drive miles and miles. The nomad life is fine, but what is sometimes hard for me is it does get lonely, as there’s nowhere to curl up with a good book and just shut out the world.

As the founder of the movement, I do hope our voice has been heard. Even though some keep saying it is too much work for one person and that one voice does not matter, I beg to differ. You know that when you are struggling in your life all you need and want is that one Kind word, that one little nudge that someone gives you, showing “you matter.” Well, this is what we hope to accomplish.

Bring everyone out of dehumanization and back into society! Does it mean we can take away their pain, their struggles? No, definitely not. But through simple acts of Kindness the person across from me during the tour might have gone from hopelessness into the feeling of “I can” and that they are an equal human being with feelings and with the need for care.

The simplicity to care is all it takes…

“Wanting the world to care” was one of the first slogans of the movement but for some reason, it did not catch on.

I want to tell you about an interaction I had with a very young homeless man. He could not have been more than 18 years old. It was an excruciatingly hot day, the thermometer of the car on the dashboard read 105 Fahrenheit and even though the AC was blasting out cold air to my face, I had little beads of sweat on my forehead while doing a radio interview. I was parked in a parking lot across from a big chain grocery store. A young man was slumped against the wall. He was obviously very hot. People passed him by without a second glance. When my interview was done, I hopped out of the Kindness Mobile toward the wall where the young man was and I said, “Young man, what can I get you inside? Food, water?”

He said, “No, thank you, Ma’am.” And then hesitated and said “A little water.”

I told him, “Coming up. Be right back.”

I zigzagged fast through the icy cold store, getting non-perishables, and stopped at the deli for a ham and cheese sandwich for the young man. I came back out, sat down next to him and showed him the goodies I got. Like a typical mom, I told him to eat and drink slowly. I asked his name and we chatted while making small talk about the heat, etc.

While we ate, he said, “The people passing behind your back are all making faces at you.” I told him I did not care. He was surprised. Next, he said, “I have not always made good decisions in my life.” And I told him “Ditto, kiddo.” Again, he was surprised.

I asked him if he could see the Kindness Mobile with the logo Dare To Be Kind on it. I told him what I did and he started smiling and said, “Boy, that cannot be easy.” I think he is one of the only people on the trip who I did not have to convince that what we do is a good thing. He got it instantly and I said, “I am not here to judge anyone’s actions. I only want to help people feel more human and feel good enough to come back into society with whatever means I got.” Which I told him is a bit of food, lots of water, and maybe a nice talk. “And hopefully I can drop you off at a shelter just so you can get out of the heat until this evening, what do you say?” He looked overwhelmed and after a bit of back and forth said, “Yes, I will go with you.”

The point of this story is that he touched me deeply, the despair, the loneliness. How can we pass by this young boy without looking? Why can’t we be kind and gentle and just give what we can? A smile, a handshake, water, hope? Not once did I ask why or what he was doing there, my task is to only give him what I can, if I can. That made him feel seen and human once again.

If you are wondering what I have done these past 11 months, it is this: My best, to live by example and bring some well-deserved hope and kindness to those who let me come near and who trusted me to talk to them.

You might be interested to know, I have also talked to many people who did not have good feelings toward me personally. These are people who I met while out and about and who did not know about the movement. With the recent mass shootings in the US and with one of the last ones at a Walmart, that event hit very close to home. Being on the road, 4 things were a constant whichever state I was in: Walmart, Target, Starbucks, and McDonald’s. Each time I saw one, I thought, Oh, I see something familiar. That might sound odd, but the little things you recognize in a strange place put a smile on your lips when you see them.

After the Walmart shooting, there were direct repercussions. I, too, look like an immigrant in the US and due to the excessive heat, I wore my hair up in a ponytail and somewhere along the way, I got the unfriendly words, “Dirty Mexican, go home” thrown at me. Whenever this would happen while on the road, I have made it my mission to make this a teachable moment for all around who were listening. Let me get straight to the gist of it.

After showing legal proof of my status, I simply said that we, immigrants, have taken nothing away from him or his family. That we all want the same things: A bit of security, knowing we have a job, to be able to pay the rent and take care of our family and especially our children. What was most important was what I said towards the end.

With a huge dose of patience and kindness, while hitting the message home. I told him that I happen to be a universal donor and that over the last several years I have donated my blood to the hospitals as I know how important this is. The man was not having it, I told him to wait a moment. I said, “If, God forbid, something were to happen to your wife or children and you found yourself at the hospital and they needed to receive a blood transfusion, would you ask to know the ethnicity and background of the person, or would you just be incredibly grateful it was available?”

He paused, looked straight at me and said, “I got it.” I could clearly see it touched him what I said, to think that someone he profusely disliked would be the person helping him in a moment of huge distress.

I walked to my car, knowing that I had evoked the man into thinking and I also knew he was going to tell his wife about our conversation. This interaction is what the movement is all about. Every time you see something or someone that needs help make it just a tiny bit better, for one reason only. Because you can BE the difference always for someone else!

Thank you to the people who have continued to follow us on social media, the ones who text to encourage me and tell me to keep going, and last, but definitely not least, Bobbie and Tomoko who are my invisible rocks!

With Kindness,
Gabriella (G)