Two Harbors was a host to a traveler gathering stories about acts of human kindness last week. Writer and traveler Mary Latham stayed with Two Harbors resident Jill Morberg while she spoke with several outstanding individuals in the region about their stories. She's gathering stories from each of the 50 states for a website, and eventually a book, titled "More Good."
Originally from New York, Latham started this project in 2013. The idea came to her shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting.
She was working in a law office in New York when the news reports were posted online. She kept refreshing the webpage to find out more details when she was approached by a co-worker who shared a story about receiving a free cup of coffee.
"There was a man in the Starbucks earlier buying gift cards and he bought an extra $100 card at the end and said to run it out on the line behind him," Latham said. "So all those people got a free coffee and this guy I worked with was one of them. He had a pretty bad year going on. He was getting divorced; his mom had passed; he'd just had back surgery. It was just a multitude of things.
"But I can still see his face. He was so excited by this free $4 coffee that this stranger bought him."
When Latham spoke with her mother about the free coffee story and the Sandy Hook shooting, her mother urged her to focus on the more positive story.
"She politely interrupted me and said, 'Mary, you've got to focus on this coffee story,'" Latham said. "''There are always going to be tragedies and horrible things happening in our lives and in the world, but there will always be more good out there if you look for it.' And that's where the name came from."
Since that conversation, Latham has been gathering positive stories from people. At first, she encouraged people to just email her stories, but since the death of her mother in 2016, she made it a goal to visit all 50 states and gather stories in-person. She packed up her mother's old Subaru and started connecting with friends of friends to stay on their couches and in their spare rooms.
Minnesota is Latham's 38th state and 127th home. She's traveled 33,000 miles since her start in New York in 2016.
Latham found her way to Two Harbors via a friend of a friend of the person she stayed with in Minneapolis. When she arrives in a community, she either connects with the host or other community members to find out who she should visit with.
In Two Harbors, she's interviewed a handful of individuals who spend time volunteering. She also heard about the Two Harbors DECA team's "Find the Kind" random acts of kindness challenge that began in January and is still ongoing.
"I think it's a great idea," Latham said. "I feel like people are generally good and they just don't know what they can do. So that project literally shows them the little things we can all do."
She also heard stories about the football team helping residents move within town.
"These are the little things that people don't hear about and that other communities could easily do if I write about it," Latham said.
Latham is next headed for Wisconsin, but will likely be passing back through the area on her way to Canada and Michigan in the next few weeks. If people have a particularly good story about human kindness, they can reach her through her website, moregood.today.