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…
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