In “The Kindness Diaries,” Leon Logothetis is traveling from Alaska to Argentina relying on the kindness of strangers to feed him and give him lodging. He’s driving a Volkswagen Beetle without a heater in the winter over the Al-Can through Canada.
We were just into the first part of the show, before he made it to Canada, when my wife asked me if people in Alaska were really that kind. I got teary-eyed remembering my time there because yes, they are.
Alaska is a harsh and lonely country. I once traveled on a highway for three hours, and no other car passed me. If you get in trouble, you need the very next person who passes by to stop and assist you. Alaskans, in general, are more than happy to do so because they know what they would want if they were in trouble.
Most of the kindnesses I received while in Alaska were from friends. My first camping trip with a couple of people I barely knew set the stage for the next six years. I received freshly caught salmon on more than one occasion. Even a couple of my rooming situations sprang up because I had a friend who needed a renter, and he was willing to rent to me (at a price I could afford even when I was a student).
I don’t know if I paid back all the kindnesses. I gave my fair share of unexpected gifts. I stopped at traffic accidents in town (because of my Red Cross training and that same friend who rented me a room on more than one occasion).
One time we stopped to see what the vehicle at the top of a hill just outside of Valdez was doing – maybe he was parked, maybe he was taking a break. The truck was broken. My friend and I didn’t know how to fix his vehicle, so we drove back toward Valdez to a phone that the guy could use. (Cell phones were out of range at the time.) When he made the call, we drove him back to the truck though we would have driven him into Valdez if he needed. He gave us fresh caught prawns. I would have refused, but again, my friend was there to accept the gift, and we turned it into one of the best meals I had in Alaska.
Alaskans aren’t friendly because of guns or out of fear. They’re friendly because they know the value of life. They know the value of kindness. They know how hard it is to survive on the frontier. As much as many of them move to get away from people, I always felt like I could count on them to help me out before I experienced any real trouble.
We need more kindness in our lives. Alaska taught me that, and this program has brought back memories.