An act of pure evil

We’ve never been busier or more pressed for time but, on 13 Novem­ber, World Kind­ness Day, we’re cel­e­brat­ing…

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We’ve all been there. Run­ning around a busy shop, search­ing for some­thing for din­ner, while your lit­tle one is mak­ing no bones about want­ing to go home and play.

That was what hap­pened when Zoe Langer, from Bury, vis­ited Sains­bury’s last month with her ‘mon­key of a lit­tle girl’. But, just as she was ap­proach­ing the end of her tether, an­other cus­tomer came up and handed her a note.

‘ You’re do­ing a won­der­ful job. Wine aisle is 23! From one mum to an­other x,’ it read.

The sim­ple mes­sage (and ac­com­pa­ny­ing £10 voucher) de­lighted Zoe, who wrote

on Face­book, ‘So to­tally over­whelmed! A ges­ture I will re­mem­ber for the rest of my life! Peo­ple like you make the world a bet­ter place, and your kind­ness means so much.’

And it’s true. Small acts of gen­eros­ity pro­duce good feel­ings in both the bene­fac­tor and the re­cip­i­ent. Jaime Thurston, author of Kind­ness: The Lit­tle Thing That Mat­ters Most, ex­plains the sci­ence.

‘Kind­ness con­nects peo­ple and touches some­thing deep within us on a spir­i­tual level. But it also changes our brain chem­istry, boost­ing the feel­good chem­i­cals in our brain to give us a nat­u­ral high. It helps to al­le­vi­ate de­pres­sion and re­lieve anx­i­ety,’ she says.

Jaime claims that kind­ness can also slow down the age­ing process and help our heart health. ‘It makes our lives, homes, com­mu­ni­ties – and world – bet­ter!’ she says.

Click on ‘kind’

So, just how kind do us Brits feel? Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by GoFundMe, we carry out an av­er­age of 11.1 benev­o­lent acts a month. Ply­mouth came out on top as the UK’s kind­est city, fol­lowed by Manch­ester, Lon­don, Le­ices­ter and Not­ting­ham.

The sur­vey also re­vealed that the na­ture of kind­ness is chang­ing, re­flect­ing our in­creas­ingly digi­tised world. While one in 10 of us feel too busy for tra­di­tional acts of kind­ness, such as writ­ing and send­ing birth­day cards, four in 10 of us ‘ like’ a so­cial me­dia post to make some­one feel good, or add a sup­port­ive com­ment for a friend.

The fact that our off and on­line lives are now so en­twined prompted Vicky Ngoma into us­ing so­cial me­dia to pro­mote kind­ness in her home city of Lon­don.

‘Like most city dwellers, I was rush­ing ev­ery­where, head down, head­phones on,’ says the 32-year-old sales man­ager. ‘Then, ear­lier this year, I was given the op­por­tu­nity to com­press my work­ing week into four days. I had this magical ex­tra time, and I de­cided to make it count. So, I started fol­low­ing hun­dreds of char­ity projects on In­sta­gram, to find out what small, sim­ple things were go­ing on.

Whether it was switch­ing to a wooden tooth­brush [as op­posed to plas­tic] or help­ing kids paint a mu­ral, my eyes were opened to just how much good­ness was hap­pen­ing.’

In Au­gust this year, Vicky set up @DoGoodLon­don on In­sta­gram to share ideas, events and good deeds, and dis­prove the cliché that Lon­don­ers don’t care about each other. For in­stance, when she heard that the char­ity PupAid was rais­ing aware­ness of puppy farm cruelty, she alerted her fol­low­ers to an up­com­ing event in Lon­don.

‘I don’t want any­one to feel bad for how they spend their time,’ Vicky says. ‘ You don’t have to be at a soup kitchen if you’d rather be watch­ing Love Island. But ev­ery­one’s got time to sign a pe­ti­tion or pick up some lit­ter.

‘I share ini­tia­tives that do­nate old cam­eras to the home­less or toi­letries to the poor. I like to think of my­self as the of­fice re­cep­tion­ist of kind­ness!’

Build it in

As re­search sug­gests that 35 per cent of us would do more good deeds if we had some­one to tell us how to, it’s no won­der Vicky’s idea has taken off.

On­line, acts of kind­ness range from stick­ing up for vic­tims of trolls to tick­ing the Gift Aid box when do­nat­ing.

GoFundMe goes fur­ther than that. The crowd­fund­ing plat­form al­lows peo­ple to do­nate money for ev­ery­thing from life events to chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances. Cam­paigns on the site have raised more than $5 bil­lion (£4 bil­lion) world­wide, do­nated by more than 50 mil­lion kind peo­ple.

‘ We see in­cred­i­ble acts of kind­ness ev­ery day,’ says John Coven­try, di­rec­tor at GoFundMe. ‘Since we launched in the UK in 2017, we’ve seen pow­er­ful out­pour­ings of kind­ness in re­sponse to peo­ple in need. At its very best, the in­ter­net brings peo­ple closer and gives them tools to help each other.’

So, how can we build more kind­ness into our lives? Jaime sug­gests it can be as sim­ple as putting your phone down.

‘Nowa­days, many of us look at our mo­biles more than we look at each other. It’s send­ing a clear mes­sage to the per­son you’re with that they aren’t worthy of your time. Your at­ten­tion is the nicest thing you can give,’ Jaime says.

‘It’s easy to get bogged down by neg­a­tive news sto­ries, of­fice gossip and fam­ily feuds, but try to rise above toxic sit­u­a­tions. Michelle Obama fa­mously said, “When they go low, we go high.” Be the per­son who goes high. Share happy sto­ries, speak nicely of peo­ple and steer clear of gossip.

‘If you can, buy ex­tra items at the su­per­mar­ket to do­nate to the food bank, or pay for an ex­tra school trip for a child who can’t af­ford to go.

‘Un­ex­pected kind­ness is con­ta­gious. Do some­thing kind for some­one and they’re more likely to do some­one else a kind­ness, too.’

While it can some­times feel like there’s only bad news, whether it’s plas­tic in the ocean or Brexit break­ing Bri­tain, Jaime urges us to re­mem­ber there is much good­ness in the world.

‘In my ex­pe­ri­ence, peo­ple are in­nately kind – we want to help one an­other. Some­times we’re not sure how, or we get busy and caught up. But, when we take time to think about oth­ers, our ca­pac­ity for kind­ness is enor­mous.’

‘Kind­ness con­nects peo­ple and touches some­thing deep within us’

Lit­tle acts of kind­ness are good for your body and your soul, it’s claimed

‘ Your at­ten­tion is the nicest thing you can give,’ says author Jaime The thought­ful note that touched mum Zoe Langer Vicky pub­li­cises kindly deeds and good causes on In­sta­gram

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