She hopped in an RV and hit the road to spread random acts of kindness
Chris Lowe wanted to honor her late son Hudson, who would have been 22 this year, by performing 22 acts of kindness a day across 22 states for 22 days.
Editor’s note: Kindness is all around us. Even in today’s polarized political climate and sometimes toxic social media landscape, it’s not hard to spot genuine acts of kindness and generosity. That’s why we launched the Kindness Chronicles, a regular series on The Renewal Project that exposes the goodness that we know exists in every neighborhood. Submit your story to us at email@example.com or tweet to us @therenewalproj, using the hashtag #kindnesschronicles.
Chris Lowe is so committed to random acts of kindness, that during our phone conversation with her, she handed out gift cards and bracelets to the mechanics working on her car. These small acts of kindness, which she refers to as the Fall Forward Across America tour, is Lowe’s journey to perform 22 random acts of kindness in 22 states in 22 days. Lowe’s journey was in memory of her son, Hudson, who committed suicide in 2017. “Fall forward” was Hudson’s mantra—it means to never give up.
The tour began in Lowe’s home state of Florida on July 26, and ended in Washington state on August 15. Now that the initial tour has wrapped, Lowe is taking her message of kindness to schools across Florida. You can follow Lowe’s journey on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
We spoke with her recently about the inspiration behind her nearly 10,000-mile journey and her advice for how to spread more kindness in the world. This Q&A is edited for length and clarity.
I know you wanted to honor your son. How did the details of the road trip come together?
My son would have turned 22 this year. He passed away in 2017. So I just was inspired to go around the country this year. It just kind of it was like the seed was planted inside of me and I don’t even know it all of a sudden just happened and it wasn’t like me trying to make something happen.
The minute I started speaking about this idea, people started helping me, as far as giving me their brand-new RV to drive all the way around the country. I put 9,500 miles on that RV in a month. That’s why I know that trip was meant to be because it wasn’t like me trying to make the trip happen. It was like me showing up for the trip because the trip was happening.
Have you driven an RV before?
Never. I had to learn how for the 22-day journey and the 13-day journey back home. I was by myself until I got to Dallas. I had a friend fly into Dallas and she and I switched off driving from Dallas to Orlando. So, I drove almost the entire trip, for 32 days.
So, you show up at a new state a new location during your tour. How do you decide what those 22 acts of kindness will be?
A lot of times I’ll have a plan, but then the plan is never what actually happens because something else always happens.
One day I went to the movies in Illinois, to buy 22 movie tickets. I was with a friend and we were going to buy the tickets and let the cashier say to people, “Oh your movie’s been paid for.” That did not happen. As people started coming in to the theater, I ended up standing there saying, “Would you mind if I buy your movie ticket?” and people were brought to tears.
One mom came in with a little boy and he was eight or nine years old and I said, “would you mind if I buy your movie ticket?” She was so shocked and she said, “We weren’t even going to come to the movie today because I told my son we couldn’t afford it.”
It was almost like being able to leave your whole day open just for providing kindness led you down different avenues. Right?
I was in Moline, Illinois, and a woman called and said “Hey, there’s a bus depot, I think this would be a great place to spread kindness.” So I drove to the bus depot and I had 22 Illinois scratch-off lottery tickets with me. That was the plan. Well then this young man runs out of gas right in front of me at the bus station, so we ended up pushing him off the road, filling up his gas can, taking him to a gas station, filling up his tank, giving him money to get back on the road. He got emotional and said “I just went and gave blood so I’d have enough money for gas.”
What’s been the impact on you and other people?
You know, people ask me all the time, “I’m coming up on the one-year anniversary of my dad passing away. What should I do with my mom on that day?”
I always say, “Go do something that your dad would want to do. If he was a marine, go out and if you see a marine thank them or buy them dinner to honor him.”
That’s how all this started, to honor my son because he was such an amazing person. It helps me feel better because it’s like his spirit is alive. And then that moment is helping other people feel better. The movie theater experience where I bought those tickets, I have received a message from every single person at the movie theater, and every person has said, “you changed my view of humanity that night.”
What keeps you going? I know being on the road can be tough
I want to show parents that you know, we have to live with this nightmare. We can either let it destroy us every day or we can let it make a difference every day. I choose to use what happened to Hudson help other people and not sit around feeling sorry for myself.
What I found from this trip is that for many people it wasn't about the actual kindness. It was about connection. It felt like people were so hungry for connection, for knowing that other people cared about them.
So I just make a choice every day to go out and do something in his honor instead of doing something that’s going to make me feel worse. The day I left Orlando was July 26 and that was the two-year anniversary of his death. When I left here, I did not feel sad. I felt inspired knowing that on that day I was going out to change lives because of him.
What advice would you give to someone who says, I want to start doing random acts of kindness?
While not everyone has money to spend, you can go stand in the doorway of a restaurant and open the door and just hold it for everyone coming in and saying have a great day and smile at them because some people don’t smile all day and no one smiles at them all day.
Just engage with people. What I found from this trip is that for many people it wasn’t about the actual kindness. It was about connection. It felt like people were so hungry for connection, for knowing that other people cared about them. It doesn’t have to be monetary. It can just be doing something nice or giving a compliment.
The human connection is what people are lacking. If we just go up to someone and smile and say, “I hope you have a great day.” That’s it. That’s an act of kindness.