Bob Votruba's bus, his only home, is a traveling scrapbook of his adventures. The door lists the word "peace" in 40 languages. Exhortations of kindness shout from the light blue frame in a rainbow of colors: "Be Kind 2 People" in big red letters, an om symbol in blue.
Votruba bobs around his bus like a kid, pointing out the multitude of meaningful messages, all aimed at promoting one thing: kindness. August marked the one-year anniversary of his mobile mission, One Million Acts of Kindness. He drives his bus to college campuses, festivals and, when invited, grade schools, preaching his message of treating everyone better. He also asks everyone he meets to commit to a goal of performing 1 million acts of kindness, or roughly 50 acts a day for 55 years. He'll be the first to admit he sets big goals.
Before this, the 55-year-old divorced father of three was making cabinets and working as a home builder and developer in Gates Mills and Hunting Valley when the economy slowed his business to a crawl.
"Everything was perfectly aligned," he says. "I just didn't like what I was seeing, the way people were treating one another and the way the world was going."
So Votruba did what one man can do. He bought an old bus on Craigslist and hit the road with a plan to spend 10 years spreading love. To fund the mission, he sold everything. "It's just amazing to me that I had 34 sport coats," he says. "I have on that bus what I care about, what has meaning to me."
Votruba left his 10-year goal in the dust soon after hitting the highway. He has so many stops planned, he expects to stay on the East Coast alone for four years. "This is something that will never end for me."
Votruba and his Kindness Bus will be in Mayfield Village Sept. 13, 14 and 15, then Lorain, Elyria and possibly Oberlin and Kent before heading to Buffalo, N.Y., on Sept. 20.