By Paris Garnier
Putting trust in a stranger to watch a backpack or hold a place in line is a small risk that some never take. Asking a stranger for food, gas money, or a place to crash is another situation entirely. But Leon Logothetis of “The Kindness Diaries” fame has made a living on this very premise, and he’s coming to IUPUI to speak for Kindness Week on April 27.
Kindness Week is an upcoming series of events put on by the Writing Center that focus on forming connections and deep learning. Students can attend conversation hours and poetry jams as well as Logothetis’ keynote address. The week will stretch from April 24 to April 27.
If it sounds like Kindness Week is coming out of nowhere, that’s because it is. Kelin Hull, a graduate student and consultant at the Writing Center, came up with Kindness Week in the days before spring break.
Hull’s thesis studies how “deep learning,” which how students actively and confidently engage in their work, is impacted by personal connection, vulnerability, and empathy. How students connecting with themselves and others can impact their studies. She binge-watched Logothetis’ show on Netflix and read his first book in a matter of days.
“His journey is an actual allegorical representation of my research,” she said, laughing. “It’s called ‘The Kindness Diaries,’ but really he’s talking about connection just like on every page.”
Shortly after, she followed him on Facebook, and he announced his usual speech fees would be waived for colleges in his latest tour. Although she was intimidated by reaching out to a famous stranger, she sent him a private message within 30 minutes explaining her research and interest in his work.
Logothetis agreed and things coalesced quickly. As she started coordinating with Logothetis’ public relations manager, Hulls contacted Marilee Brooks-Gillies, the director of the Writing Center, and explained what she had done. Hull wanted to use Kindness Week as a way to explore her research in action and help students.
“How can we break out of this idea that the Writing Center is just this place where you come get your paper fixed? Because really, that is so secondary to what we actually do here. What we do is connect to students so they can feel confident and able to deep learn.”
By the time spring break was over, Hull had gotten approval from the Writing Center and signed Logothetis’ contact. The following week saw date and time negotiations. A team of about nine Writing Center consultants and students in training met with Hull last Friday to hash out the final event details.
Some events include the conversation hours (1-2 p.m.) and presentations (5-6 p.m.) on Monday and Tuesday, a poetry jam (1-2 p.m.) on Wednesday, and the open house following Logothetis’ speech (6-8 p.m.). The speech, “The Power of Human Connection,” is from 5-6 p.m. on Thursday, April 27.
Hull explained that she wasn’t concerned, but excited and “flabbergasted at how easy it’s all coming together.”
The most difficult part of Kindness Week’s development has been the expenses. Instead of the usual tour fees, IUPUI’s English department took up half the required $625 fee that would cover the 100 copies of Logothetis’ latest book, “Live, Love, Explore,” to be given away to students over the course of the week.
“Well, it wasn’t like the scariest number I’ve ever seen, but it was still like, ‘Oh, that’s a lot of money,” Brooks-Gillies said. But opposition has been low, and gratitude to the English department is very high.
“People in the Writing Center community are really excited about it and it’s really nice, kind of heartwarming, as the director to see people excited about something called Kindness Week, right, so, I’m thrilled with this.”
Logothetis’ career as a writer, producer, and motivational speaker began when he left his life as a London broker behind to travel the world relying on the help of strangers.
“The purpose of my speeches are to show people that kindness exists in the world, and although there are bad things that happen, more often than not, there are good things that happen and we tend to forget that.”
Logothetis is familiar with IUPUI and fond of Indianapolis, having visited several times. While hitchhiking from Times Square to the Hollywood sign, he met a woman from Chicago visiting Indianapolis for a wedding, and experienced “one of the greatest acts of kindness” in his journeys.
He was told, “if you can find your way to Chicago, here are my only set of keys, you can eat the chili from my fridge, you can sleep on my couch, and you can leave the keys in the flower pot the next morning.”
It appears making risky connections pays off quite well.
“The Kindness Diaries” come to IUPUI: After taking a risk, an all-new event comes to IUPUI
By Paris Garnier