Seven wonderful random acts of kindness

An encouraging message on a Tube update message board

Good news comes in many forms, but perhaps the most heartwarming stories are when people do good deeds for strangers, simply because it feels good. Here are seven tales of unprompted kindness to bring a lump to the throat…

One good turn deserves another

Boston court clerk Glen James had a run of bad luck in 2005 which led to his losing his job and then his home. Not wanting to be a burden on his relatives, he spent seven years living on the street and in shelters. Then he found a backpack containing travellers’ cheques and cash amounting to more than $40,000 (£28,000).

Glen James, the homeless hero who returned a bag full of money in Boston
Homeless hero: a selfless act turned Glen James’s life around CREDIT: THE BOSTON GLOBE

Rather than keep what would be a life-changing windfall, James handed it all to police. They returned it to the grateful owner and the story of the “good Samaritan” was reported in the local press.

Reading about James’s good deed, stranger Ethan Whittington set up a GoFundMe page to raise a reward. Donations flooded in from around the world, eventually raising more than $100,000 – enough for James to get his life back on track.

Speaking to the press, James said that it was “nice to have some money in my pocket” and that even if he had been desperate, he wouldn’t have kept so much as a penny of the cash he found.

The true meaning of charity

Welshman Dan Black was badly injured in a cycling accident. In 2013 he was raising money to fund a stem cell operation that might help him to walk again. Then he heard about five year-old Brecon Vaughan, who suffers from cerebral palsy and had only ever walked with the aid of a frame.

Brecon Vaughan with Dan Black, who helped raise funds for surgery that enabled Brecon to walk
Walking tall: Brecon Vaughan, thanks to Dan Black CREDIT: SWNS GROUP

Brecon’s parents were raising funds for a procedure called selective dorsal rhizotomy to help their son walk unaided.

Black gave the entire £22,000 he had raised to Brecon, who flew to America for the procedure and today walks to school and plays with friends – thanks to the remarkable generosity of this 27-year-old stranger.

“I wanted to help someone whose life could get better,” Black said at the time. “Hearing that Brecon was finally walking was lovely. It made giving the money away worth it.”

Warm welcome for cold pups

David Simonian was passing the Hott Spott café in Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos one night when he noticed a remarkable sight. Lit by the lights of a Christmas tree, four stray dogs were sleeping on the warm seats of the empty eatery. The photo he took went viral. Here’s why.

Dogs sleeping in the Hott Spott café in Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos
Puppy love: abandoned dogs sleeping in the Hott Spott café

As a waiter later explained, since the financial crisis caused widespread unemployment in Greece, many people can no longer afford to feed their pets. Large numbers of tame dogs roam the streets. The café’s owners couldn’t bear to see them shivering through cold nights alone at Christmas, so they let them in.

“When the café closes at 3am, the dogs come in to sleep,” the waiter explained. “The customers don’t mind. Every night there’s a dog on the couch.”

Real love on Valentine’s Day

In the run up to 14 February 2012, London publican Nick Gibson realised that, for people not in happy relationships, Valentine’s Day wasn’t so cheerful. He wanted to do something good for them.

Pub landlord Nick Gibson's Valentine's Day appeal for Refuge at the Draper's Arms in Islington
Sharing the love: the annual Valentine’s Day appeal at The Drapers Arms

And so Gibson wrote an announcement on the pub blackboard: all his takings on Valentine’s Day would be donated to the charity Refuge. Since then he has repeated the donation each year, with the message spreading on social media.

So famous is his annual act of generosity that this Valentine’s Day was one of the busiest Sundays ever at his pub, The Drapers Arms in Islington. Gibson was able to present Refuge with a cheque for nearly £10,000.

“I hope you’ll forgive a tiny sense of relief that next Valentine’s Day is a Monday!” Gibson wrote on social media. He intends to keep up the tradition – an example of a community pub genuinely taking care of people.

We will remember them

Harold Percival was 99 when he passed away peacefully in the Alistre Lodge nursing home on the Lancashire coast. With only a few distant relatives, it seemed likely Percival’s funeral would be attended by almost no-one.

Mourners at the funeral of 'Dambuster' Harold Percival
A hero’s send-off: mourners at the funeral of Dambuster Harold Percival CREDIT: GETTY

The home placed a small ad in the local paper mentioning that Percival had served in 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, and asking for strangers to be kind enough to attend. A retired policeman saw the ad and put it on social media. Celebrities including Jason Manford helped to spread the word. By the time the funeral was held – poignantly, at 11 o’clock on Armistice Day – there were hundreds of mourners including serving RAF and US Air Force airmen, soldiers and members of the Royal British Legion. Percival’s casket was preceded by a guard of honour.

“You have come in numbers surpassing anything that was expected,” the Rev Alan Clark told the swelling congregation. “Not because you knew him, but because each of us has a common humanity.”

Thanks be for the coupon kid

Clipping coupons for discount groceries is not usually among a teenager’s priorities, but Jordan Cox, of Brentwood in Essex, is not your usual 16-year-old. Cox’s single mother Debbie, 52, struggles on her NHS administrator’s salary and her son’s tireless coupon-finding efforts cut around £2,000 from her annual grocery bill. It was while planning their Christmas shop that Jordan – who is studying business and finance – hatched a plan to help families other than his own.

16-year-old Jordan Cox who helped low-income families in Brentwood, Essex, by clipping coupons
Saving the day: Jordan Cox and his Christmas coupons CREDIT: REX

“I decided I wanted to help as many people as I could, and to also show that it’s possible to shop very cheaply if you know how,” Cox said.

He took 470 assiduously collected coupons to his local Tesco and filled three shopping trolleys with discount food including chicken, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings, cheese and desserts. “It’s not an exact science, so you can never really work out ahead of time how much the total is going to be. I was stunned when it came up as just 4p.” That’s a saving of £572.12. Cox then donated the contents of all three trolleys to the charity Doorstep, which provides food to disadvantaged families.

“”I’d call his gift a great and generous act of a young man,” says Doorstep’s Vicky Fox. “He’s made a real difference to families who work with us who survive on extremely low incomes and do need the help.”

The best bequest

Totnes-born RAF pilot Keith Owen had travelled the world and settled down in Canada, but always loved to visit Sidmouth in Devon, where his mother had retired. Owen’s favourite view was of the picturesque Sid valley leading down to the sea.

Daffodils planted in Sidmouth, Devon, as part of Keith Owen's £2.3 million bequest
A host of golden daffodils: Keith Owen’s bequest to Sidmouth CREDIT: SWNS GROUP

Having no children, when the time came to make a will Owen decided to do something for the town he loved and left his entire estate to the Sid Vale Association – the UK’s oldest civic society, asking them to plant flowers in the valley when he was gone.

What made this news? Having followed his RAF days with a successful career in investment banking, Owen left the town he loved £2.3 million.

So far more than 400,000 bulbs have been planted by Sidmouth residents aged from two to 90. Since the entire scheme is paid for out of the interest on the £2.3 million, leaving the principal investment untouched, it’s a gift that will keep on giving.

“One million flowers was Keith’s amazing dream,” says the head planter John Townsend. “We’re doing our best to fulfil his wish.”


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