The small act of kind­ness that sparked a global move­ment


Good Health Choices - - Content -

Af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing in­fer­til­ity di­ag­no­sis turned her world up­side down, Naomi Lam­bert knew she had to chan­nel her en­ergy into some­thing pos­i­tive. Struck with a late-night thought that wouldn’t go away, she founded the Cool to be Kind Project, a so­cial ex­per­i­ment that uses anony­mous cards to prompt peo­ple to do a kind deed for a stranger. Naomi leaves the cards ev­ery­where from park benches to shop­ping malls, and she’s been amazed at the re­sponse.

She wants to spread the mes­sage that even a small ges­ture can make a big dif­fer­ence to some­one’s day.

A lit­tle idea with a big im­pact

When I had a hys­terec­tomy at 33, the word ‘dev­as­tated’ didn’t even

‘I love how peo­ple have gone out and acted on it af­ter find­ing the cards’

be­gin to ex­plain it. I could no longer ful­fil my dream of hav­ing chil­dren, and to top it all off, I had to deal with early on­set menopause. I re­alised I had two choices: to con­tinue down the rab­bit hole of self-pity and sad­ness, or fo­cus on the pos­i­tive things in life.

One night I couldn’t sleep and I came up with a ran­dom idea for a so­cial ex­per­i­ment. I wanted to see whether peo­ple were will­ing to do some­thing kind for oth­ers, so I de­signed th­ese lit­tle cards and started hid­ing them in places. On the back of each card I had ex­am­ples of nice things you could do for some­one, with an email ad­dress that peo­ple could con­tact to say what they did af­ter they found it. I didn’t ex­pect a re­sponse. Then they started com­ing back, and out of the 50 cards I made, I got 32 re­sponses. Soon it was picked up by the lo­cal me­dia in my home­town, Perth, and be­came a pop­u­lar good news story. Lots of peo­ple were want­ing to know how to get in­volved, and whether it was go­ing to con­tinue, so I de­cided to carry on.

Good deeds

I’ve had lots of great re­sponses, but one of my favourites was of a woman who helped an el­derly man. She worked in a dairy and she knew an older cou­ple who had been com­ing into the shop to­gether for years, when sud­denly they dis­ap­peared. A few weeks later, the old guy came in by him­self and he was very upset be­cause his wife had died. She helped him choose his gro­ceries, and it was right be­fore clos­ing time so she shut the shop and walked him home. The next day they planted a rose to­gether in mem­ory of his wife. That one gets me every time!

Then you get sim­ple mes­sages like the one that said ‘I washed my mum’s car without her ask­ing and she was stoked’ – that made me smile as that had to be a younger per­son. It’s nice to think that it’s all ages across the board who are tak­ing part in this.

‘be­ing kind only takes an ex­tra few sec­onds out of your day, and it makes the giver feel good too’

A gen­tle re­minder

The re­sponse has been so sur­pris­ing. I love that peo­ple have gone out and acted on it af­ter find­ing the cards, but in an­other way I can’t get my head around why find­ing a lit­tle card can prompt peo­ple to do things. If they hadn’t found the card, would they have done this any­way? I was happy that peo­ple are do­ing it, but at the same time I was sur­prised it took some­thing like that to prompt peo­ple to think of oth­ers.

Once, when I con­tacted some­one to say thank you for a kind thing they did, the guy I spoke to said, “I don’t want to talk to any­one about it, be­cause I’m scared of what my mates will think.” He said it was ac­tu­ally a chal­lenge for him to do it be­cause he had to do it when peo­ple weren’t watch­ing. That struck me as well, peo­ple might want to help some­one but were wor­ried their mates would has­sle them for it.

I of­ten just watch peo­ple and it’s amaz­ing what you see peo­ple not do­ing! Things like not hold­ing doors open for peo­ple, or if there’s some­one who has only one item of shop­ping and they are be­hind some­one who has about

300 items in the trol­ley and they don’t let the other per­son go first. Lots of peo­ple aren’t do­ing th­ese lit­tle things that ideally we should be do­ing every day. I think there are a lot of as­pects to it, but of­ten it’s just be­cause peo­ple are in a rush and their minds aren’t fully en­gaged. But be­ing kind only takes an ex­tra few sec­onds out of your day, and it makes the giver feel good too.

Pay­ing it for­ward

I’m in the process of start­ing a pod­cast and I would love to start cor­po­rate pro­grammes, as I think it would be a good thing to be con­scious of when you’re at work. I’m hop­ing to get some help to con­tinue the project, as it can be a lot of work and a big cost to print ev­ery­thing.

I love dis­tribut­ing the cards,

I leave them on wind­screens, at the su­per­mar­ket or in the park – nowhere is off lim­its. I have friends and fam­ily in Canada and the UK, so the cards have now gone there as well.

What I’m pas­sion­ate about is spread­ing the kind­ness mes­sage in schools. I would like to give the lit­tle ones their own cards to hide, and when we get re­sponses back we can go back and read them to the kids. It’s a way of bring­ing life to the idea of ‘this is what hap­pened when you did this’, and in­still­ing those mes­sages at a young age, I think, will change them for the bet­ter as they grow up.

For more in­for­ma­tion, see the­coolto­bekind­pro­ject.wee­

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