“Strangers” : Reflection 2

02R-KofSI first read this book 15 years ago and offered it as a kindness class, both an online and an in-person version. I was able to track down Mike McIntyre by doing a little Internet sleuthing back then. As means of a reflection exercise, here is what he wrote to me in 1999 when he heard I was using his book to promote kindness.

Hello Andy,

I’m glad you have found something of worth in “Kindness” to use in your program. It sounds like you run a unique and creative school. I’ve heard from teachers (from junior high thru college) who have taught “Kindness” in their classrooms. I don’t know why, but it always surprises me. When I hear of youngsters reading the book, my one big regret about the journey is the whole hitchhiking thing. I don’t want to be the reason some kid hops into a car with a child molester (or worse). Even though everything in the book is true, the journey probably works better as a symbol–that is, if there is any meaning to be gleaned from the experience other than the obvious. But you are a teacher and already know this, of course.

I was glad to make that trip, though I would not do it again. In retrospect, sheer insanity. I’m pleased that people are willing to look past the darkness and cynicism to find something inspirational. When I left on that journey, I fully expected to have a negative experience. That it ended as the most rewarding experience of my life was truly a shock. My intent was never to write about kindness. That’s just what greeted me along the way, and I just wrote down what happened. If my book prompts people to commit acts of random kindness, great, but I feel squeamish about posing as an advocate for kindness (if this doesn’t sound too silly). So, while I support your efforts to use my book in any educational way you see fit, I must decline your invitation to directly participate in your programs.

Thanks for taking the time to write me.

Best, Mike McIntyre

I’m curious how any of you react to this message. Does it in any way change your opinion of him, positively or negatively?

2 Comments

  1. Interestingly enough, I did think he was a bit crazy to get into a situation over and over again that could have cost him his life. I was glad he turned down a couple rides. I think doing things like that are riskier now than they might have been then, or doing them then, if you were a woman, a black, a Muslim, or any other ethnic group that might not be liked by the locals. I think perhaps the most significant thing about his experience is the impact it had on his viewpoints about people and life. Those kinds of experiences are worth doing even if there is a certain amount of discomfort at the outset. For example, I made my first and as it turned out my only solo backpacking trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, staying on well travelled trails when I was in my mid 30’s. I spent only one night completely alone and it took courage to be alone in the wilderness where it was reported that bears still lived. I found it very hard to go to sleep that night! But I was very glad I did it and later made a drive by myself from coast to coast camping almost every night for three weeks across northern US and southern Canada. It was a trip of a lifetime!

    1. I think you’ve hit both the benefits (trip of a lifetime) with the concerns (a bit crazy) of a trip of this sort. I’m curious when else we may be involved in an activity with this wide spectrum of possibility…

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