Thursday, March 7, 2019

Do Unto Others: Mary Latham

Posted By on Thu, Mar 7, 2019 at 5:03 PM

click to enlarge Mary Latham - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Mary Latham

Mary Latham is in Memphis looking for random acts of kindness.

For the past two and half years during her More Good mission, Latham traveled to 35 states in her 50-state goal to find the good in people.

Traveling in her mom’s old Subaru, Latham, 32, gets people she meets on her travels to tell her stories about kindnesses done to them or to others. Or kindnesses they’ve done. She hopes to compile the stories in a book.

“It’s amazing how the large majority of people, complete strangers, open their doors and connect you with people in the community doing good,” Latham says. “I don’t have a sponsor. I’m literally sponsored by the kindness of strangers. They donate gas to the gas tank, buy dinner, coffee along the way.”

She has stickers from the places she’s been plastered on the car. “I look like this total hippie.”

Latham, who is based in Long Island, New York, said the seed for her quest was planted when she was at work. It was December 14th. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was all over the news. “I was pretty horrified — as we all were that day.”

A co-worker, who stopped by her desk, told her he’d just gotten a free cup of coffee at Starbucks. A customer buying gift cards for his employees put $100 on the counter and said he wanted to buy coffee for everyone in line.

Her co-worker was going through a lot of problems. “He was 30 at the time and going through a divorce. His mom had passed away and he was having back surgery. He was so excited about this $3 cup of coffee.”

Latham called her mom and told her about the incident. Her mother said, “Think about that man who just made so many people’s day by buying them a coffee. There is always going to be horrible and tragic things that happen, but there will always be more good out there. You just have to look for it.”

Latham and a friend began compiling similar stories for “The GrAttitude Project,” which they began on Facebook.

Her mother, who was battling cancer, “ends up in the hospital for surgery. There was a small chance of anything going wrong. And it did. She passed away at the end of the week.”

Latham still was in shock when she opened up her email and found a “beautiful story about a girl who lost both her parents.”

As a way to honor her mother’s memory, Latham decided to begin looking for good in every state and compile the stories into an inspirational book for hospital reading rooms. “Highlight all the good that was going on and record it and kind of figure it out.”

Latham began traveling from city to city. People knew about her from news articles done in various places she’d visited. They fed her and let her sleep on their couches.

A professional photographer, Latham sometimes takes a two-week break and shoots weddings and visits her family. Then it’s back on the road.

The well of stories of kindness never runs dry. “Of course, everyone has a story because everyone has a story.”

On the fourth day of staying with a couple in Nashville, the man, a pharmacist, told her about an old woman who used to visit his drugstore to get her pills. He began taking them to her so she wouldn’t have to make the trip. He discovered the woman was alone and didn’t have any family. “They started having lunch with her every Monday. This is the story. It doesn’t have to be a kidney donation.”

Her hosts have been diverse. “I’ve had Trump supporters, Hillary supporters, Bernie supporters.”

Kindness transgresses politics. “I realized in this mission people never talk about politics. Entering these homes, they never ask me these kinds of questions. It’s a breath of fresh air not to have to talk about it for a minute.

“Not to say things aren’t so great right now, but look around and you notice the good.”

In Memphis, she discovered the “Wow” budget at Pinnacle Bank. An employee discovered one of their customers was sick, but couldn’t afford to pick up her pills at Walgreens. “They used some of the Wow budget, paid for the medicine, picked it up, drove it to her house. That’s a cool thing. There are so many cool things up my alley.”

She heard the story of a third grade teacher who gave special attention to one of her students who was struggling. The child was one of four children being raised by a single mother. This teacher sat down with the young woman and said, “Look at me. I believe in you. You can do this.”

The child progressed to the seventh grade and ended up getting all A’s on her report card. She sent the report card to her teacher, who framed it and now has it framed in her classroom. “Everyone has a great teacher. You never remember to thank them.”

People have done many acts of kindness for her, Latham says. A woman, who really couldn’t afford it, bought her lunch and gave her $20 to get her flat tire fixed. The man who fixed the tire told her it would be good for a month or two, but that she needed new tires.

“This woman calls up the local Subaru dealership, explained what I was doing and asked if they would help ‘cause I was driving a Subaru. The secretary said, ‘If they don’t, I will buy her four new tires right now on my credit card.’ But they did. I cried that day. Not to say I don’t cry pretty much all the time.”

Latham suffers from Lyme disease, which flares up when she’s under stress, which she’s under quite a bit. She also has arthritis in her legs. “I’m collecting stories knowing what people are going through and people help me: ‘Let me put essential oils on you. Give you a massage.’ It’s really amazing.”

Her More Good mission has been therapeutic for her, Latham says. “I would say it’s been a pretty big punch in the face of perspective getting through my mom’s death. I could not seem to get through it very well. I thought doing this mission would really keep her alive. This is her kindness and spirit of believing in good out there."

If you have a story to share, contact Latham at

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