[By Sam Judah, BBC News Magazine, October 16, 2013]
Picking up litter. Buying someone in need a coffee. Or just doling out free hugs. There’s a growing movement of people doing nice things for strangers, but do they make for a kinder society?
Each week, Elisa Ng trawls the streets of Singapore picking up rubbish discarded by her fellow citizens. She is not searching for treasure hidden in the litter. Her only goal is to leave the city a little cleaner than before.
“I want to encourage other people to pick up a piece of litter every day,” she says. Recently, she chased an errant lorry driver who had thrown a plastic bag from his window. “He looked quite apprehensive and seemed apologetic,” she says.
Thankless though the task seems, Ng is just one of many residents of the city who have been inspired by the Singapore Kindness Movement, a government-funded body which aims to promote helpful and courteous behaviour amongst its people.
…….A similar organization, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, was founded in Denver, Colorado, in response to the city’s “Summer of Violence” in 1993, when dozens of people were killed in gang-related shootings, including several children. One victim of stray gunfire was just 10 months old.
The organization borrowed the writer Ann Herbert’s call for people to “practice random acts of kindness, and senseless acts of beauty”. The phrase has since been popularized on doormats and bumper stickers across the US and encourages Americans to surprise one another with good deeds.
In Canada during the month of July, 2013, multiple reports of incredible pay-it-forward coffee kindness sprung up spontaneously across the country in Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton, where unidentified patrons prepaid for 500 coffees (worth over $800 ) at the nation’s popular and ubiquitous Tim Horton’s retail coffee locations. The coffees were then presented to the next 500 patrons who ordered coffee. The gesture went viral nation wide.
The World Kindness Movement represents the work of organizations from 23 different countries. “It has gone way past the level of community endeavour,” says its secretary general Michael Lloyd-White.
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