It's Kindrid's mission to explore what generosity looks like. We're sharing stories and inspiring leaders around the country to do the same.
If you saw a caravan of burly men wearing neon vests and pushing bright green, double baby strollers with guitars bungeed on top, would you invite them to sleep on your couch?
Since late July, four guys have walked their way from Portland, Maine down the East Coast, playing music and encountering bottomless generosity.
The Walking Guys, a Nashville based band, decided to take their tour on the literal road—1600 miles of it—to break down barriers and connect with real people.
Planning as much as possible, they set up shows in larger cities and reached out to friends for places to stay along the way, but they couldn’t account for every detail—or the generosity that would fill in the blanks.
We jumped on the phone with Riley Moore, one of the Walking Guys, as he and the others were just finishing up lunch, about 10 miles north of Richmond.
They travel 15-20 miles a day and sometimes, that means to the edge of a small town. Once there, it’s either camping or relying on the kindness of strangers.
“We knew [generosity] would happen some; we just didn’t realize how frequently it would happen. We’ve probably camped out 10% of the time on tour, but the rest of it’s been spent in people’s spare bedrooms or backyards.”
Our muffled call was interrupted a few times by shuffling and jostling as the others dragged Riley into a picture with a shop owner or as they loaded their gear into the strollers for some more time on the road. “I’m on the phone right now!” he’d call out in playful desperation.
As the guys walk, Riley tells me of how much they've always underestimated the power of a hot meal or a real shower or a bed to rest their weary bodies. Early on in their journey, they ran into a woman who seems to best capture the color and contour of the tour.
“Do you know anywhere we can camp around here?”
They were standing on a street in Newport, RI for the Newport Folk Festival, knowing no one, except the friendly smile of a small woman they’d met moments prior.
Mama Jean, as the guys would later affectionately call her, quickly volunteered, “We have a little garden.”
She left them then to check with her daughter. When she called back saying they were more than welcome, the guys discovered the depth of her generosity.
Mama Jean didn’t live in Newport. She and her family were on vacation celebrating a birthday—four in the family, plus four grimy guys in a small rental.
Riley reflected, “They only knew us for about half an hour. Even thinking about my own vacations, we’re nice and even occasionally generous people, but I’m not really sure if we would invite someone in on a family vacation like that.”
Mama Jean is now the stuff of folklore, or at least folk song.
The Walking Guys have seen generosity manifest itself in housing, cash, clean clothes, toothpaste, kind words of encouragement, even their sponsors.
Riley admitted that some of that generosity was probably motivated in part by companies wanting the Walking Guys to rep their brand, but he was quick to add a caveat.
“I don’t feel like what we’re doing with our ‘promotion’ is really enough to warrant what our sponsors have given us. Saucony Footwear is already a huge company and doesn’t really need us—we’re not all that well known,” he said with a soft laugh.
As each morning gives way to each evening, it isn’t as common to hear stories of daily generosity.
We asked Riley why he thought people are more willing to be generous with the Walking Guys than they might normally be.
"Honestly, I’ve thought about that some and you could either chalk it up to coincidence or that we’ve stumbled upon a utopia of generosity, but I don’t think it’s that,” he mused.
"It’s generosity that’s triggered by the fact that what we’re doing makes people pause for a second and think, ‘Oh, they’re walking across the country. What can I do to help them?’’’
An invitation to generosity
A recurring theme throughout the Walking Guys’ tour rests on an invitation to generosity—providing people with the opportunity to see and meet a need, deserved or not. It’s a lesson we can apply in all our encounters, including with the people we lead.
“Sometimes our pride keeps us from that awkward situation of approaching someone and asking if they need help. Whereas, we’re very approachable because we look so silly.”
Riley thought for a moment before continuing, “Giving without expectation. That’s generosity. People give and all they get in return is watching us walk away.” (CLICK TO TWEET)
The Walking Guys will land down in Atlanta before finishing up in Nashville November 14.
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