Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Goodwill Tour: Paying It Forward - Keith Maginn - Guest Post & Excerpt

Today I am delighted to welcome author Keith Maginn back to the blog, talking about his second book, Goodwill Tour: Paying It Forward. You can also read an extract from the book below.

Guest post by author Keith Maginn

My name is Keith Maginn and I released my second book, Goodwill Tour: Paying It Forward in January of 2013. GWT is a travelogue about a journey that I went on with my friend in mid-July of 2011. Emily and I set off from Cincinnati, Ohio on a 3,000-mile road-trip through the southeastern United States. We gave our own money to hand-picked strangers that we met along the way, with the stipulation that they had to pay the money forward to someone else. Goodwill Tour recounts how Emily and I tried to spread kindness and make a difference in the lives of others while having a once-in-a-lifetime journey.

The idea for the trip actually started out as a joke. Emily and I met through my memoir, Turning This Thing Around. A friendship developed over time and we started half-seriously daydreaming about doing a tour to sell my books. The two of us brainstormed how we could combine having an adventure with doing something philanthropic. Emily had read Bill Clinton’s book Giving and was well aware of the “Pay-it-Forward” cause. Ultimately, she came up with the idea to go out on the road, meet deserving strangers and give them money that they had to give to someone else. Meanwhile, I would be taking notes along the way that I would turn into a book.

The whole trip came about quickly and we didn’t have time to plan much of anything. Emily and I only had a 15-day window for our trip, so the route had to be within driving distance of Cincinnati, our hometown. We knew the Southeastern U.S. route would put us in the Deep South in the middle of a very hot summer, but that course would allow us to visit more places that we had never been previously. Just a few days before we were going to leave, Emily and I decided to go to Memphis, Tennessee - New Orleans, Louisiana - Savannah, Georgia - Charleston, South Carolina - Asheville, North Carolina…and many towns in between.

Other than a loose idea of destinations, Emily and I decided we would just take a leap of faith and trust our instincts. We wanted to put ourselves into positions to meet deserving people. In some cases we were able to work alongside volunteers, at a soup kitchen for example, and other times meeting our donation recipients was more serendipitous. Believe it or not, giving money to strangers was harder than we expected!

The people that we chose ranged from a nun to a mother of three young children to a monk. As you can imagine, all were quite surprised when complete strangers handed them cash. What struck me the most about these people is that they kept thanking us for what we were doing, while they were the ones really making a difference—Emily and I were travelling around for a few weeks, while the people we met worked or volunteered to help others on a daily basis for little or no credit.

Stepping off of the trolley in our first stop (Memphis, Tennessee) was when it first hit me—we were actually going through with this crazy idea! Emily and I had the next several days to do whatever we wanted. No deadlines, no 9-5 job, just a goal to have fun and to touch some lives.

Giving away the first donation to a special young woman in Memphis made us realize that things might work out after all. She was genuinely grateful and all three of us were in tears. (The first interaction also gave us a false sense of how smooth the trip and the giving would be, as things were not that easy the rest of the trip!)

Emily and I easily could have backed out of this trip, could have put it off for “another time”…a time that likely would never come. I am glad that we took a chance. No one can ever take that away from us. In the words of John F. Kennedy: “There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

You only live once. You don’t want to have regrets the rest of your life because you didn’t go after something you were passionate about. When my aunt found out that Emily and I were going on this journey, she said “One of my regrets is that I didn’t do once-in-a-lifetime things when I was young and unencumbered.” You will never know unless you step out of your comfort zone and follow what your heart is telling you to do. If you go forward, you might be surprised how things just seem to work in your favor. I hope Goodwill Tour: Paying It Forward inspires others to take their dream trip and/or to make a difference in the lives of others.

As an unknown, independent author, I am grateful to Lindsay at The Little Reader Library for giving me a platform to help spread my message. I also appreciate people like you for reading my story. I would love to connect with you on Twitter (@Keith_Maginn) or at my website ( Thank you and all the best!!


First donation: Memphis, Tennessee

In the morning, Emily and I decided to heed several friends’ suggestions and took the $4 monorail to Mud Island River Park. On the ride over, a female staff member dressed in khakis and a bright red Mud Island polo shirt greeted us. Being the lone passengers at the time, Emily asked the attendant, “Are you our entertainment?” Without hesitation, our host did an impromptu dance for us.

We could tell immediately that Jena (pronounced “Gina”) was an affable young lady who didn’t waste time complaining about the 100-degree temperature. When questioned about her favorite part of the job, she said it was being able to meet people from all over the world, from Amsterdam to Hawaii. Her favorite thing about Memphis: “Beale Street. There are so many places to go and eat, to hear live music. It’s always live.”

Jena could have been in a foul mood, outside in excessive heat. Instead, she had a big smile for everyone, asked questions, and seemed genuinely interested in our responses.
Since two cars shuttled visitors to and from Mud Island, we told our new friend that we would catch her train on the way back (which she told us was the car that Tom Cruise had ridden during the chase scene in the movie The Firm). As we got off the rail, I hinted strongly to Emily that we’d just met our first donation recipient.

While we put the idea on the back burner, Em and I explored Mud Island. Had the temperature been 25 degrees cooler, the park would have been the ideal setting for a picnic. We saw several young adults singing and dancing, oblivious to the hotness. The sun shimmered on the Mississippi and a light breeze lifted from the water from time to time. It was a beautiful day in Memphis, with blue skies and few clouds.

When we stood by to return from the island, a staff member told us Jena was on her break for the next 45 minutes. We decided to wait. After all, we’d promised we would see her again.

So we plotted.

Giving money to a stranger was foreign to us. We didn’t know how to give cash to a person we had just met. Even Emily, who seems comfortable in any situation, was nervous.

I suggested we pose the idea to Jena as if we were conducting a survey, asking strangers what they would do if someone gave them $100. (Unlike the donations to come, this was not necessarily a pay-it-forward gift: One of Emily’s co-workers had donated $100 to be used specifically in Memphis, as her family had lived there years ago when her husband was in the military.)

Soon enough, we saw Jena again. She remembered our names, which impressed us, as she probably saw hundreds of people every day. Jena looked suspicious: “They told me y’all wouldn’t get back on without me.”

Emily: “Well, we told you that we’d see you on our way back.”

I dipped my toe in: “Yeah, we’ve been walking around asking people this question, ‘What would you do if someone just walked up and gave you $100?’”

Without hesitation, Jena replied: “The staff is not permitted to accept tips.”

I tried again: “No, no, no. I’m just saying hypothetically. What if someone gave you $100?”

Without a second’s pause, Jena answered: “I have four kids. I’d give them each $25.”

Emily and I changed the subject and hid our smiles.

Worried Jena might be prohibited from taking our gift, we decided we should talk to her boss. After getting our picture taken with Jena, we told her goodbye, acting like we’d never see her again. When I got to the ticket booth, I asked to see the manager about one of the staff members.

The woman behind the desk shot back, “What did he or she do wrong?”

I clarified that it was quite the opposite. We wanted to reward Jena for her great attitude.

As the woman paged the manager, she said: “Well, you picked a good one. Jena sometimes goes across the street and shares her lunch with the homeless people.”

Two men came out of a back office and asked me how they could help. I explained that Emily and I were doing a “goodwill tour” of several cities and wanted to give money to deserving people. I told them how great of a job Jena was doing and that we were not giving her a tip, but a surprise gift as part of our project. They agreed that Jena was a great choice and asked only that we give her the money offsite.

One of the men radioed for Jena to come down to the office. A few seconds later, she saw Emily and me with her boss and gave us a “what-the-hell-is-going-on?” half-grin. Her boss asked Jena to go across the street with us and get him a newspaper. Hesitantly, she walked with us. I can’t imagine what was going on in her head at this point.

I broke the ice: “Remember that $100 we talked about on the monorail, Jena? Well, we want to give it to you. We are traveling around, meeting special people and giving money away. After meeting you and seeing what a great job you do, we want you to be our first selection.”

Jena was shocked, and tears welled up in her eyes, which caused a chain-reaction in Emily and me. She couldn’t believe strangers as of a few hours ago were giving her money. Jena said she couldn’t wait to share the joy with her kids. She informed us that she is 26 and the mother of three boys and a girl, ages one, four, five and eight.

Giving Jena the money felt great (though the credit goes to Emily’s co-worker Nancy for her generous contribution). It was an emotional experience, and we seesawed between nervous laughter and happy tears. Jena sighed, “Today, I am truly blessed.”

After more hugs and pictures, Emily and I had to move on. Relieved that our opening donation went better than we could have imagined, we were able to relax. Maybe this crazy plan would work out after all.


  1. My goodness, what an amazing leap of faith. I'm sure many of us dream of doing this. Goodwill Tour sounds like a read I'd enjoy.

  2. I hope that you enjoy it, Tracy. The trip was quite an experience!! Thank you for reading this post.

    All the best,


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