Meet Bob Votruba: One Man's Goal to Perform a Million Acts of Kindness in his Lifetime
[May 25, 2021: Alyssa Alfano]
Sometimes, going out of our way to be kind to others is something we brush off, especially in our current society. But Bob Votruba has made it his mission to be kind.
Standing on the corner of Public Square near the Lemonberry frozen yogurt shop on a recent sunny day, he shared that he started A Million Acts of Kindness with the goal of performing these million acts in his lifetime.
He has spent several days on the square this spring, holding a giant “Remember to be kind” sign and smiling at, waving to and chatting with passersby.
“It’s all about kindness, making a difference in people’s lives,” said Votruba. “Just simply standing on this street corner, you can look at some of their faces as they approach and they’re kinda maybe a little grumpy; you never know where they’re going.
“Maybe they’re going to the divorce attorney, maybe they’re going somewhere where they don’t want to wear their mask anymore all day long, maybe they’re going somewhere they’ve got a tough boss or something.”
He shared that when people catch sight of his sign, he can often see their whole disposition change.
“I can have someone, I’ll look at them and think, ‘Oh, they’ll wave to me, they’ll like this,’ and they show no effect and then I can have big, burly semi-truck drivers come around the corner so excited like ‘beep, beep, beep,’” said Votruba.
He has been carrying out this mission for 14 years now, traveling for 12 of those years with two buses he owns that have positive words and affirmations painted on them.
“I started this April 16, 2007 -- the shooting at Virginia Tech. Thirty-two dead at that campus,” said Votruba. “It just touched my life so deeply, and I said: ‘How can one person take 32 lives? What sort of hurt had to be inside him or what sort of hate had to be inside his heart?”
He visited Virginia Tech after the shooting and was there for several days. He spoke to family members, classmates and others who were affected and realized something was missing from the world -- and that something was kindness.
“This message is for everyone. It doesn’t matter your politics, your religion, your age, your race,” said Votruba.
He has received a lot of feedback throughout his travels from people who have seen his buses and signs.
“It’s just the immediacy of being able to bring a little joy to someone’s life,” Votruba said about his favorite parts of doing this. “It’s basically all I know. It’s become such a part of me. It just gives me a buzz to see people smile.”
Throughout his time standing on the square, people honked, waved and smiled at him. Many stopped by to ask what he was doing.
Taylor Kline of Medina brought Votruba a drink.
“I brought you a frozen hot chocolate to thank you for the sign,” said Kline. “You’re doing God’s work. I had to thank you.”
Amy Seibel of Lodi brought her two kids, Harry, 4, and Silviana, 6, to the square to see Votruba and his sign.
“I think it’s great. I’ve actually seen him on Facebook before,” said Seibel. “My kids, our morning motto is ‘I am able, I am capable, I am strong, I am kind,’ so I said, ‘Well, this guy thinks being kind is important, too,’ so they got really excited.”
She said that if you ever think one person can’t do something, just look at all the people on the square who were affected by Votruba. Almost everybody honked and smiled because of that sign, because of that one person.
“I think this is the best place because of that guy’s sign,” said Harry.
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