The Kindness of Strangers

Simple acts make all the difference

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I live in Kendal, South Lake District within a community that is mourning the loss of a talented chef and marathon runner. I did not know Matt Campbell personally, but I know many people who did. 29 year old Matt died suddenly last Sunday whilst taking part in the London Marathon; he was running to raise funds for the Brathay Trust, based in the Lake District, whose mission is ‘to improve the life chances of children, young people and families by inspiring them to engage positively in their communities’. Matt was 3.7 miles from the finish line when he collapsed.

Matt was an ex Kendal College catering student who had gone on to become a well respected chef, working in The Lake District area and becoming a well known face in the industry having come second on BBCs Young Chef of the Year back in 2009 and subsequently appearing on Masterchef – the professionals. His innovative ideas and healthy cooking earned him great respect. He was also described by many as a selfless, compassionate and intelligent man. He had, a few weeks earlier, completed the Manchester Marathon in honour of his beloved father Martin, who had died just 18 short months ago.

We should always be kind, to our friends, our neighbours and strangers alike, because life really is too short.

On the evening of Thursday April 26th over 500 of Matt’s family, friends, Brathay Trust Staff, members of the running community and many others who wanted to support and show some love for Matt, gathered in the Lakes and ran the last 3.7 miles in his honour. To date these folk (and many others who have since decided to complete the last 3.7 miles in areas all over the country) have raised over £250,000 for the Brathay Trust in Matt’s name! How brilliant is that?!

Reading Matt’s story and hearing local friends talk about not only Matt, but the Brathay Trust and those people who work to enrich the lives of others has really got me thinking about kindness, and why we should always be kind, to our friends, our neighbours and strangers alike, because life really is too short.

As a parent I talk to my girls about kindness a lot – being polite, smiling at people, putting others before themselves etc and I’d like to think that they do a pretty good job in these areas. But of late I have been thinking about kindness on a different level – actively seeking out opportunities to be kind to people, every day, for no particular reason other than it’s a nice thing to do and could make a huge difference to someone else.

I recently watched ‘The Kindness Diaries‘ on Netflix (anyone else seen it?), whereby author and traveller Leon Logothetis travels around various parts of the world relying completely on the kindness of strangers for fuel (for his trusty yellow motorbike) food, shelter and good company. It’s astounding and uplifting how many strangers are willing to offer sanctuary to Leon at no benefit to themselves. I am a naturally cynical person and whilst watching this, I found myself opening up to the idea that most people can be and indeed are naturally kind, giving and helpful. This sits very well with me. Leon does fantastic work with children in school settings in order to promote the idea of kindness. I even got in touch with him and told him how inspired I was by his travels and his ideas – he got back to me personally and sent my daughter some of his postcards, so that every time she did a random act of kindness she could write it down and post it back to Leon and he could then pass on those good deeds and ideas to others.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”

– Aesop –

I noticed the other day that Simon Hooper of @father_of_daughters Instagram fame, had announced a #justbenicefriday concept – this occured to him having posted a short video of his beautiful two year old twins laughing their socks off whilst being tickled. He explained how he had had so many messages about how these giggling toddlers had really made people’s day – made then smile. Sometimes it’s the simple things – so he wanted to share this positive concept.

By the end of the first day of #justbenicefriday, folk from all continents of the globe were taking part in this idea and adding the hashtag to the stories of their day whereby they had been kind. So, #justbenicefriday is easy – it encourages people to do something simple that would make a strangers day – smile, say something nice to stranger or a friend for no particular reason, tell the person on the checkout at Tesco’s what a great job they’re doing, if you see your postman, wish them a good day or thank them for their services…you get the idea. I think this is all pretty magical and you never know, with time perhaps we could change the hashtag to #justbeniceeveryday.

So today and everyday hence forth, I implore you to take the time – just a minute or two out of your day – to think of a particular way that you could be kind/nice. It doesn’t necessarily have to be to a stranger – perhaps picking up the phone and calling a family member that you often don’t have time to speak to, or thanking that person who makes you a cuppa everyday – literally anything that offers a positive message to someone, just because.

Matt Campbell’s story is a tragic one, but a reminder of how quickly lives can change. Matt’s family have spoken of how overwhelmed they are by people’s support and kindness in light of the death of their son/brother. Kindness helps – so very much. So, let’s not wait for more bad stuff to happen, let’s get kind.



Main image via the Brathay Trust.

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