“From a distance, the world seems like a big, bad, scary place. If you listen to the news, or even ask the person next to you, they will likely talk about war, poverty, corruption, and hate. And they are right, from a distance. But I believe that up close there is enough good, enough love, and enough pure kindness to make the world go round.”
These are the words that open each episode of The Kindness Diaries, a new series on Netflix that chronicles a man’s trip around the world — a trip about kindness, generosity, and the human spirit. And honestly, I don’t think there’s been a better time — or a more necessary time — than the present for a show like this.
The premise of the show is quite simple: It centers around Leon Logothetis, a former London broker turned TV host, author, and motivational speaker. He has traded in his power suit and stable income for an opportunity to change the world. His mission? To travel the world without a penny in his pocket. All transportation, food, and lodging will have to provided by the generosity and kindness of strangers. And before you go thinking to yourself, Wait — this guy’s just looking for a free trip around the world?! (because honestly, that’s what I initially thought), you should know there’s a lot more to it than that.
As Leon meets strangers like Dwight, who gives him gas money so he can leave Hollywood, and Willy, a Scotsman who offers him a warm bed to sleep in, he then does something kind in return. And that kindness spreads.
Of course, his journey doesn’t come without challenges. Leon tells Babble that the hardest part of the experience was rejection — something he faced often, having to ask for food and shelter wherever he went.
“No one likes being rejected and it stops a lot of people from putting themselves out there,” he says. “We all know what it’s like to hear ‘no,’ but hearing it 10-15 times a day can put a strain on anyone.”
Still, he persevered in order to achieve his goal of helping others.
I watched the show with my kids over the weekend, and discussed the impact Leon was having on everyone he met. We also talked about how random acts of kindness spread as they’re paid forward — no matter how big or how small.
My own kids are involved in a local organization called Lucy’s Kids for Peace, through which they commit acts of kindness like collecting school supplies and purchasing Christmas gifts for impoverished children. They’re in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and active in our church. Kindness and compassion are not new concepts in our house, but this show showed both concepts to my kids through a new lens — through Leon’s journey and the friends that he met and helped along the way.
One of the first acts of kindness Leon receives is from a man named Ruis in Las Vegas. Although Leon is a stranger, Ruis allows him to stay in his home and gives him food. When asked why he helped, Ruis says that “if you pay some kindness forward to someone else, it stays in your account. And you can trust that when you need it, it will be there for you.”
In Colorado, Leon meets Willy and Shari, who also offer their home to Leon. Strong in their faith, the couple spends their days helping people like Kay, a 96-year old woman to whom they bring food and friendship. Leon has the privilege of visiting with their friend Kay, who says that visits form Willy and Shari make her “feel like a part of the human race” and not just “an old piece of baggage.”
Yet, despite all they do for others, Willy and Shari cannot afford to attend their son’s wedding in England. And that’s where their acts of kindness to Leon come back to them, as The Kindness Diaries will now pay for that trip. When they hear this news, they break down into tears, saying, “We didn’t expect anything from you. This has been one of the most amazing days of our life.”
Because that’s what true kindness is. Doing something for another person and expecting nothing in return.
In another episode, Leon meets Tony, a homeless man living on the streets of Pittsburgh. When Leon asks for help, Tony says he doesn’t have a home to offer Leon, but that Leon is welcome to stay with Tony and his friends in his “camp,” and they’ll share with him whatever they have.
Once again, the generosity of a person who gives despite having so little, comes back ten-fold, as Leon later tells Tony that the show is going to pay for him to find a home and earn his education so he can get off the streets. (Try watching the tears stream down Tony’s face when he hears this news and not having a few of your own.)
Leon’s travels even across the Atlantic Ocean via cargo ship, where he visits Italy, Sarajevo, Kosovo, Turkey, and Cambodia, among several other places, and meets everyone from doctors who perform surgeries on the poor for free to children living in an orphanage where they desperately need safe drinking water and have almost no books or toys. Time after time, Leon is overcome by the generosity thrown his way; and in turn, the people who help him are stunned by his own unexpected kindness.
After months of traveling the world, Leon ends the final episode back in the U.S., where he reconnects with his friend Dwight, the first person to have shown him kindness, and delivers a special message.
But I’m not about to spoil the surprise ending for you — which is truly heartwarming and inspiring in a myriad of ways. You’ll have to see it for yourself (and trust me, it will bring tears to your eyes).
As for what’s next for Leon? “Hopefully I will be taking an electric car from Alaska to Argentina spreading a message of kindness along the way,” he tells Babble.
I wish you all the luck in the world, Leon! Thank you for reminding my family, and so many others, just how beautiful the world really is.
You can watch all 13 episodes of The Kindness Diaries on Netflix now.