Last Monday 13th November was World Kindness Day and it seemed a perfect day to launch my book, do a fundraiser for local charity the 999 club, get a few friends together and celebrate kindness.
I was delighted to have this party at Arts Admin, where we have been hosting our storytelling/new writing night Are You Sitting Comfortably? for ten years now, and very chuffed to be joined by some very kind and obliging friends who helped with the entertaining: Heather Burton, Vanessa Woolf, Jules Craig, Dan Thompson and Ant Dewson. Here’s a few pics and sorry there aren’t more, we had some ahem... technical difficulties!
Andrew Mitchell from the 999 club did a great talk and we were pleased to raise a total of £178.17 from both book sales and the bucket collection, plus a lot of interest and raised awareness of the work that Andrew does with the 999 club in Deptford.
“The Little Book of Kindness” was never about me and in a very true way belongs to the many (hundreds now) of people who contributed and joined in with that adventure since I started back in 2011 (if you’re interested in reading about that first year please go here)
But the icing on the cake (not the actual cakes on the night, which me and my mum made ourselves, delivering the left overs to Deptford Playgroup the next day!)
but the metaphorical icing was being chosen as one of the recipients of People United’s #bekindsigns
This sign has been installed in our front window, and has already inspired conversations and debates about kindness from passersby and visitors. as well as being the subject of a few instagram posts! More about the sign and it’s impact in another blog...
The other purpose of the night was to collect stories of kindness. I had started that day with a seniors drama group I run, the 999 club had contributed a few of their own, and on the night lots of people who attended generously gave their stories. As I have said many times, these stories are important to share and to read so we can have hope and faith in each other. This collection of stories, and a copy of the book, with be sent with a friendly letter to every editor of every major newspaper in the UK and every leader of every political party presently represented in parliment to say "please help us promote kindness and share stories of human beings being great."
I’ve taken all the names out as that seemed like a good idea, I will repost one story with each blog I do over the coming year or so, but in the meantime, here they all are...
Seniors group stories of kindness
'A great kindness was given to me by a company who deals with housing. Two very kind people came to my flat once a month to help me with my dyslexia and dementia. Then when my youngest son had to move to leave our flat – I hated being alone in my flat and I begged the organisation to move me into some local community flats because I had been going there for a long time and enjoyed the lovely benefits, for example exercises three times a week, theatrical entertainment, classical music concerts etc., and all the other facilities one can enjoy here with pleasure and gratitude. To my utter joy they managed to get me accepted into the community housing, to my eternal gratitude. I am very happy here."
"On leaving hospital I started to cross the road. Nearing the kerb I did not see in the dusk a long column of raised tarmac just before the pavement. Crashing downwards my left hand flew up to protect my face and the right arm folded over, my operated right side, with traffic approaching from the left. A swarthy man lifted me up “alright?” I managed to say “yes” and shaken I walked to the bus. I described how the hump on the road was invisible and he nodded. “I know luv” The kindness of this stranger undoubtedly prevented an accident."
"I was on the bus- I wanted to stand to leave my seat to an elderly lady- then a young girl offered to help me stand up. I appreciated very much her offer but meantime I felt like an older woman."
"Kindness from authority- a very young policewoman on 12 November took me and my husband out of the long queue to reach Westminster Abbey. And taking me by the hand took us to where we could cross Bond Street in order to access the route to the Abbey for the Remembrance service without shuffling along with hundreds of other people who were in the “snake” system."
"Yesterday I was coming home via Waterloo tube Station when a man asked me which platform to go to get to Queens Park. I told him and when I arrived on the platform he was sat on the bench waiting for the tube train. We then got into conversation and told each other about our relations. A very interesting conversation."
"My robin- every November until February/March I had the pleasure of a lovely red robin (mother) who came to nest in one of the trees (not bushes!) because there were many cats around, eager for a catch & grab!
I left her some cool, boiled water, seeds and crumbs, which she took backwards and forwards. She brought me much pleasure and delight, and also proudness as she came back every year, until I moved away, and till this day whenever I see anything with red robins on or seeing a red robin in the park I remember the kindness and love she brought me!"
"Tales of Kindness
Kindness is all around. Little snippets of kindness abound, every day, everywhere. I remember, growing up, how family and neighbours always had little treats for one another. Sometimes because someone grows certain fruits so there is an abundance of that fruit you distribute it amongst those around you. Sometimes because you’ve been given something, if your sister gives you 3 dozen eggs your downstairs neighbour could use some of it as could that lady down the street who lives by herself. Receiving an unexpected act of kindness, whatever form it may take, is not always worthy of broadcasting. It is however always present and can make a difference in someone else’s life.
A smile, a hug, a compliment. A seat in the bus. A place in the queue. Doesn’t have to be big. Simple and full and often. That’s all"
"Since I have been a pensioner I have noticed how kind people are. The minute I step onto the bus someone offers me a seat although I am not disabled or carrying a stick. Also in the street they will often step aside to let me pass. Also the people in this group are friendly and kind and it is a pleasure to be with them."
"There are a few videos I got on email that made me cry when I saw them
There was a young man who did not know how to tie his tie properly, an old couple saw him struggling to do it so the old man sat down next to him and kindly asked if the young man needed help. Then he slowly tied the tie for the young man and the wife was standing in front of both of them because she tried to cover them both to avoid embarrassing the young man- it was a nice thing to see.
2. A beggar with no legs and hands was sitting on the street to beg, there was another crippled man passed by, he sat down next to the beggar, slowly he took out some food and started to feed the beggar- how do you feel if you saw that scene?"
"I have been helping a close friend of mine. She has become forgetful and cant hear properly so I do her shopping, go to see the GP and check all of her letters, go to the bank, it is a big responsibility for me that I have never experienced before. I also look after a 12 year old after school. I accompany her to skating on Monday. Swimming on Tuesday, ballet on Wednesday, violin on Thursday and piano on Friday, and her mother was so grateful for me helping her daughter."
Stories of Kindness from the 999 club
Born, breath, live, hope, love
Truth, true, tender, understanding
Trust support soft emotion ill mad sad happiness of life guidance love and trust
No lies hand in hand
"I was walking to the shop one day and a saw a man sitting on the floor. Not begging, but obviously looking in need of money/food or some kind of help. It was raining and cold so I offered him a cup of tea or coffee from the coffee shop. I went into the coffee shop and ordered two coffees. I was counting my money to pay when the lady behind the counter told me the coffees are free. I cant remember why, but I thought wow, I’ve just offered to buy a coffee for this guy who looked not so fortunate, and as much a s every penny counts, I was willing to spend the last little I had in my pocket. But then it seemed like my kindness was rewarded by receiving the coffees for free. I gave the man his coffee, he said thankyou gratefully again, and I went on my way feeling blessed."
"I think the most kind people I know are the 999 club staff. They support you with everything you need, cups of tea, coffee, benefit advice. They help you with most things. If they cant help you, they will advise you how to get help. They supported d me when I lost my daughter and my domestic violence. They helped me move and I found a new man and I’m engaged! I’ve never been happier!'
"FiRst time when I started working in London it was in a pizza chain initially it was quite difficult for me to understand how the machines were working, my duties etc. But I was working with a group of Indonesian colleagues and they were wonderful and helpful. As time went on we became very close friedns but until one of them was especially so kind to me. One day I needed £300 desperately and no way, I couldn’t find it. On one of our breaks he noticed that I was quite distracted and morally low. He asked me what was wrong with me. I was a little bit reluctant to tell him my problem but he was a true friend I discovered. When I told him that I needed this money he didn’t say anything and he went to his locker and bring this cheque out and gave it to me. What’s more he never said anything about when I should return the money back to him. To me that was the ultimate friendship and kindness. So long my friend."
"To everyone in the 999 club. May you be blessed in every way. Merry Xmas."
Stories of Kindness written on the evening of the world Kindness Day party.
"When my dad was in his late eighties and not so mobile, he used to totter down to the newsagents for his paper and then go to the café next door, which was in the post office. He would then collar passing strangers and talk to them. In fact he made several friedns this way. Above all, one chap who came in most mornings with parcels from his mail order kilt making business made a point of always chatting. Dad loved this because they talked about theatre and films. When he went a way on his holidays Dad really missed him but he sent a postcard (from Laos) to the Post Office for Dad, which really cheered him up and made him feel he’d made a genuine friend. Postcards are so inclusive. Share your holiday!"
"I was walking near my home and passed a partially sighted lady with her lovely guide dog. I also noticed another lady walking the opposite way with her 3 small white dogs. I think there was another lady with her. The next thing I heard all these dogs barking and attacking the guide dog who was barking at them in defence. The lady didn’t seem to be in control of her dogs at all. The partially sighted lady was pulling her dog back. I turned around to go and help and the lady with the dogs was walking away. I spoke to the lady who was checking that her guide dog wasn’t injured and I assured her he was all right. It turned out "he" was a "she" and called Dolly I walked with her as we were going the same way and after checking she was ok we parted company. The lady told me this had happened before. The moral to this story is don't have a dog unless you can control it.
I felt sorry for the lady and her beautiful dog"
"An act of kindness to a hungry student
When I was a student nurse I didn’t have much money for food. I was waiting at a bus stop, freezing and hungry. I started waiting for a couple who were waiting for the same bus. They gave me a sandwich and some sweets. I hadn’t asked for this but was so grateful. That was twenty years ago and I have never forgotten their kindness."
"A dog story- I was running back home in the freezing cold- had done a 6-mile run. There was a man walking his dog coming towards us up the hill. Suddenly the dog got loose I managed to grab the dog even though it was scared and leaping about in the middle of the road."
"Having children sometimes makes it hard to get out in the evening. I have a twelve-year-old daughter and my neighbours have an 11 year old. A few weeks ago, my neighbours knocked to ask if I could look after their daughter- just for an hour- as they had tickets to see David Sedaris at the Brighton Dome. Their elder daughter would be home by 8.30, but they needed help for an hour before that. I readily agreed to help and went indoors with a warm glow of feeling I was doing a good turn. A little later I was cooking tea feeling a bit sorry for myself. “I wish I had tickets to see David Sedaris,” I thought. Then I remembered. I DID have tickets to see David Sedaris! I had bough them months ago and completely forgotten! Now I needed a babysitter! AND I had JUST agreed to my neighbours’ daughter!!!! I spent a fruitless hour of the phone trying to find a babysitter but failed, so I had to knock next door and confess how dumb I’d been. To my amazement my neighbours promptly got on the phone and organised a babysitter for my daughter so that I could go. When I tried to thank them they laughed and then said, “Its ok, we’re all in this together”"
"Kindness of Kristmas
Once upon a Christmas I had nowhere to go as my family moved abroad but my best friends family took me in for Christmas (and for many more) and my friends family Christmas had now become a new tradition"
"The first person I told I was gay was my best friend. We were 16 years old and he is straight. I was frightened. The AIDS crisis was in full swing. It was the 80s. My friend hugged me. He assured me of his love and friendship. That he would always stand alongside me. We are friends to this day. His kindness was instrumental to my ability to trust and believe in myself."
"My friend bought a coat from eBay- a long woollen winter coat with velvet collar and cuffs, nipped in at the waist, with a beautiful red silk lining- light, elegant but warm. On reviewing it, she realised it was too big for her- the sleeves too long, the waist too wide, the length… just too long. And she said that she thought someone taller, a little more statuesque should have it… she gave me that beautiful coat- “do you want some money for it?” “No” she said, "I’d like you to have it”. Its one of the best coats I’ve ever had and I’ve had endless compliments about it- I love wearing it because it feels great, I know it looks good on me, and it makes me feel lucky for having such a kind and generous friend."
"I was travelling on a train and heard someone groaning in pain. A young woman in a nearby seat was clearly suffering. The train was pretty empty. I asked if she was ok, and it was obvious she needed medical attention. By this time she was screaming with pain. At the next stop I carried her off the train and out of the station- she was quite heavy! We couldn’t get an ambulance to come so I got in a taxi with her to the nearest hospital, and then carried her to the emergency section. They treated her straight away and within an hour she was stable. A couple of days later her mum phoned to thank me – she was so relieved someone had helped when they could have done nothing, or somehow abused the situation. She cried a lot. I often think of the young woman and hope she’s well."
"My oldest friend is 93. She lives on her own in Kent and has no family in the country. Her brother (aged 89) died last year. I led his funeral (I am a funeral director). She is a lively strong willed ex-bus conductor with a razor sharp memory. She loves a good natter and company- both of which were missing from her life. I could see that she had no support network, no help. nothing in place, and now no brother. So she is now my friend. We talk on the phone and I take my husband and son to visit her. She told me recently that she slept on her sofa s her bedroom downstairs was full of stuff and she couldn't reach the bed. So we drove down and spent 3 hours clearing her room, - moving boxes upstairs, sweeping up the mouse poo and mopping the floor, sorting out her bags od clothes and making up her bed so she had somewhere to sleep. She is a proud and feisty lady wit interesting stories to tell. She has no other support in place and relies on a neighbour for shopping. So she is now my friend."
"The childhood home of Anne Boleyn
I want to tell a sotry of an act of kindness I received. I met a boy; an Irish boy and I fell in love. I had a good friend, an Irish friend. She joked “now, come on, you don’t want an Irish boy. I tell you he’ll never love you as much a s he loves his mammy, Irish boys don’t” Now the boy, he behaved vey badly and boke m heart
My friend said, “here come and stay at my house” she made me dinner and let me stay in her lovely wan house. She said I shouldn’t let that ginger Irish boy make me feel so sad. I felt comfort, but it wasn’t enough. I need to laugh again.
My friend said “come on, ill take you out for the day Ill take you to the childhood home of Anne Boleyn you can be at one with someone who was even more fucked over by a ginger tosser, and you know, at least he only broke your heart and didn’t chop your head off”. When some people show you their worst, other people show you their best. Some peoples best id their bone-dry wit."
"I was struggling to carry my shopping bags home. A complete stranger took half the load and detoured to my street to help me out."
"We went camping for a weekend. Within the first ten minutes my friend broke his collarbone. He was in pain and disappointed, unable to join in. My daughter loves him. She gave him a blanket. They sat together on camp chairs. My daughter decided not to join in too. She spent the whole weekend by his side “lets look at the view” holding his good arm gently as they crossed the campsite. May my daughter feel proud and my friend loved."
"My mother in law Is one of the busiest helpful and kind people I know. When I had the crazy idea that all the 600 children I was going to tell my sotry to must have an origami boat, she gave herself blisters folding paper with me. When it looked like we would run out of time, to get enough done, she asked her class of students to make a boat each! Genius, 30 boars made all at once and some of them had encouraging messages written on the bottom of them. I told my story of a worrisome little boy and a sad old lady and how they helped each other out. Each child took a boat home to remember the story and the rewards for me were seeing the children excitedly sharing their boat stories and knowing that with any luck, they would be played with, enjoyed and treasured at home"
"One night when I was around 30 I was generally down, lonely, broke and feeling extremely sorry for myself. I went to my parent’s house for tea and my dad took pity on my empty wallet and gave me £20 to go out.
He said “if you’re broke because you spent all your money on clothes, that’s your mothers influence. If you’re broke because you spent all your money at the pub, that your fathers influence”
Then he made me my tea: fishcakes and vegetables. He couldn’t see that well. He made my fishcakes smiley faces, thinking he was using olives. They were blueberries. The blueberries and the kind words have stuck with me"
"After I went to the toilet I sprayed the cubicle with my perfume"
Thankyou for reading, if you have your own story of kindness you’d like to share please do get in touch!
And finally...yes it can!