One morning, in 2008, three friends left their home in London, determined to make the world a better place. Their mission began on Parliament Hill, where 18 people, relaxing in the sun and enjoying the views, were asked to make a wish. One asked for help with some home improvements, another requested a blender for a new kitchen. One told of an 11-year-old hoping for a birthday party, another of a small boy, having a hard time, who had his heart set on a red electric guitar. The three friends took names and telephone numbers and, seven days later, all 18 wishes had been granted.
‘It was great,’ says David Goodfellow, one of the benevolent trio, who describes the experience as ‘magical’ and ‘peculiar’, and those responsible as being ‘semi-crazy’. ‘Something odd started happening,’ he explains. ‘People were really enjoying these moments [and] we got more requests. We realized [that] it was fun and entertaining and that it was indeed the case that, if you do nice things, nice things will happen to you, that positivity does create more positivity.’
So began The Kindness Offensive, an initiative that exists to spread kindness and happiness, encourage others to do the same and, in the process, to make our planet a better place for all. Since that memorable morning in 2008, the group of three has become 6,000-strong and goods worth more than seven million dollars have been given away. In recent times, requests have been received from those in need in the United States. Expansion is planned. The Kindness Offensive is coming.
This is a project that strikes a particular chord in our studio, because at its core is basic humanity, compassion and inclusion. ‘We don’t have criteria for who we help,’ says David. ‘You could be poor or you could be very rich – if you’re asking for help, we’ll give it to you. We don’t mind if you’re a convicted criminal, if you’re employed, unemployed, man, woman, black or white. It stops us from being judgemental. There’s nothing worse than evaluating if someone is worthy or not.’
In our previous blog post, we raised the possibility that kindness is, essentially, a narcissistic act and, on this point, David is quite open. ‘The people who benefit the most are us,’ he admits. ‘We’re quite candid about that. We benefit from the feelings of satisfaction [that] we get and the interactions we have with human beings that we otherwise wouldn’t have’. That that doesn’t devalue the process seems quite obvious. ‘We do this because we reckon it’s the best thing we can be doing,’ says David. ‘We’ve worked out that there’s a value to helping someone else out for free. It makes me feel good about myself. It gives me hope for the world.’
It gives us hope too, here at OM®, and it proves that individuals – ordinary, normal people – can make the most profound difference. Ten years ago, David admits that he’d walk past homeless people on the street and not give them a second thought. ‘Now I know that person’s life is, on some level, my responsibility,’ he says. ‘I can make life better. I can put some time aside, get food, blankets and supplies. I know that one of the crucial things [that] homeless people lack is proper, even-handed human contact [and] I know that by going and spending half-an-hour sitting on a bench, not talking down, I’m doing something valuable.
‘I know that there are a lot of kind, nice people out there. [Before] I wouldn’t have thought that me, average Joe Citizen, could do much to make the world a better place. I would have thought that would be the responsibility of CEOs and Government members but I’ve realized that it’s my responsibility. There are people out there with clothes on their backs and shoes on their feet and meals in their stomachs who simply wouldn’t have had them.
‘There’s something magical about being positive and being kind and wearing it on your sleeve – it kicks open lots of doors. Everybody can do something kind [and] we rely on people waking up to the reality. The only thing that matters is what YOU do. If you’re positive, if you express gratefulness, if you express happiness [and] if you’re determined, you can do whatever you like’.
There’s little more for us to add. Here at OM®, we applaud David and The Kindness Offensive and we endorse their efforts wholeheartedly. Here’s to them, here’s to kindness and here’s to changing the world.