This Van Delivers Human Kindness

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Why you should care

Life sucks and then you … sometimes stumble onto heart-transforming acts of love and joy.

Ever noticed the bathroom cleaners at the airport and thought, “Wow, I bet that job sucks”? Maybe you’ve felt pangs of guilt for leaving that towel on the ground after missing the trash can. Perhaps you’ve smiled at one of them as if to say “Thank you.” But I bet you haven’t given each one of them a candy bar and a thank-you note.

Nance Cheifetz and Peter Grazier have. More than once.

For Peter, it all started when he and Nance went out to see a performance in San Francisco and did what many people do — paid the parking attendant. Then Nance did the kind of thing she always did — and most people don’t — she offered to buy the guy a latte. And then she did. And Peter realized, oh wow, you can just do that.

Peter, a retired engineer, sold all of his belongings three years ago and moved to Sausalito, California, where he lives with his now-wife, Nance, whose former day job was running a small team building and training business called Sense of Delight. “I called myself a Corporate Fairy Godmother,” says Nance. They continued to perform acts of kindness here and there. Then they realized what was missing — inspiring transportation. So away went the Lexus. They bought a 1990 Volkswagen van, named it Bodhi and never looked back.

The couple do thoughtful things like handing out hot chocolate in heavy traffic, leaving a bunch of quarters and chocolates in a Laundromat and putting “You are beautiful” notes in books at the public library. Peter started a website in February 2014 to write about his experiences, and he and Nance have also created an app, A Year of Kindness Acts. People are often caught off guard by the couple’s gifting, and they’ve learned that people are more open to receiving if there’s a reason. So they make signs — Celebrating Women! or Celebrating Friendship! — to put people at ease. Still, some remain skeptical, Nance says. Sometimes they want to know, what’s the angle? Or, who are they with? What religion are they pushing?

There’s no angle, no religion. Nance and Peter make it very clear that this isn’t about them. They aren’t developing Kindness, Inc. Still, when you see them out there, it’s obvious that they are getting something out of it. Win-win.

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