Andy used to work with a guy called John. John went through a messy divorce, lost his job and eventually found himself sleeping rough on the streets of Norwich.
One Friday he approached the manager of a local restaurant and told him the story. The manager invited him back the following Monday for a trial shift in the restaurant’s kitchen. The trial shift eventually lead to a full time position for John.
The manager of the restaurant also gave John some money to enable him to find shelter for a couple of nights before the trial shift, and to be able to buy some news clothes.
Although I do think kindness is wired into us, there are times when being kind involves taking a risk and often our society does not encourage that. In the story ‘John’, the kindness was between men and involved a business situation and those are two areas where society encourages fierce competition and can be the least tolerant of taking risks to be kind. I have a profound respect for two individuals who placed decency and hope over fear.
Gray Jordan is a painter and conceptual artist who investigates the relationship between identity and place in pieces created using natural and, whenever possible, locally sourced plant and earth based pigments and materials. Her aim is to allow a reconsideration of the role of consumerism in personal narratives and to explore the alternatives including community, ritual and relationships with the natural world.
Many years ago, I was hitching around Italy as a teenager. My friend and I were dropped off at a very quiet spot with hardly any traffic and we spent a long time waiting for the next lift. We were waiting in front of a house, and an elderly lady came out and said hello.
In our broken Italian, we asked if we could have a glass of tap water. A minute later, she came out with a water and two large slices of Easter cake—it was Easter. She asked where we were headed. We told her and a minute later, she came back with her son and said he would give us a lift to the motorway, where it would be much easier to get a lift.
Our thirst quenched and bellies full from the cake, we soon got a lift and were on our way again—all thanks to this kind, elderly Italian lady.
I chose “Easter in Italy” because I instantly related to the idea of bonding with people through food. Inviting someone new into your house or your family and offering them something to eat may be customary in some cultures but still is, every time, an act of sincere care and solidarity. It may not be a lot, but with this offering you’re saying (even if you don’t speak the same language) you’re welcome, you’re a part of this home.
Sofia Salazar is a textile designer and illustrator from Argentina, living in Norwich. She works with embroidery, print, sketching and various techniques. Most of her work revolves around mythology, archaeology, gender, sexuality, and pays tribute to her favourite art movements interspersed with some humour. She finds solace in museums and her garden and enjoys browsing second-hand books as a source of inspiration.
I was walking my very energetic labradoodle in the park one day. I was in my early 30s and heavily pregnant for the first time. I sat down on a bench in the park feeling rather low and unwell. I was afraid about becoming a parent for the first time. Abandoned by my own mother, I felt very unprepared and lacking somehow.
Because of the way I was feeling I had managed to successfully isolate myself, which of course made everything worse, but at least I thought I don’t have to try and share how I’m feeling with anyone else as the thought of doing so seemed just as overwhelming. As I was sitting there (I imagine looking rather deflated) an older lady approached with her own dog. She sat herself down beside me and began talking: about her dog, my dog, her dead husband, being lonely at home, her vertigo condition and then about my pregnancy… Before she left me that day she said ‘thank you so much, I was having a bad day today and you have made me feel so much better’. I realised when she said it that I did too. A couple of years later I bumped into her in the local shop, she didn’t remember me but I remembered her and told her that she had once been very kind to me and thanked her.
This story helps me explore our vulnerability when we offer kindness to strangers. I’ve tried to imagine how the older woman might have felt just before she spoke to the younger woman. Did the weight of her own needs make her hesitate? Did she worry she’d be perceived as inappropriate or interfering? Was she scared she’d be rejected? How did she find the courage to share her vulnerability and risk connection? I’m left wondering if we always acknowledge how hard it is to do that.
Lucy Edwards is a ceramicist. She makes small clay figures that explore our relationship with ourselves. Giving form to fear, anger and despair, some figures encourage us to be gentle with ourselves when we’re experiencing difficulty. Other figures celebrate a sense of wellbeing and express feelings of connection, acceptance and joy.
Many years ago now, one Saturday afternoon, my mother and I drove to central London and I parked in Grosvenor Square, just behind John Lewis Oxford Street. As we were sitting in the cafe at John Lewis I looked out of the window and to my horror saw that my car had been clamped! I wasn’t sure what to do as I didn’t know how long it would take to sort out the problem and didn’t want to leave my elderly mother alone not knowing when I would be back. A lady sitting at a nearby table realised my plight and offered to stay with my mother until I returned. I readily accepted her offer.
In the event, I was gone for a couple of hours (or more?) as I had to go to the police car pound at Hyde Park corner, and then walk back to my car and wait for someone to come and release the wheel.
I was so very grateful to that lady, a total stranger, for giving up her afternoon to sit and chat with my mother, which gave me peace of mind in leaving her.
When people talk about acts of kindness, they sometimes imagine big gestures or charitable acts. I like this story because it focuses on something so small as someone’s presence being the act of kindness. It is something anyone can do, it requires no prior knowledge, and no planning, however it can have such a big impact on the receiver that she remembered it for many years to come.
Gerry Ormanova is a graphic designer and lettering artist from Sofia (Bulgaria). She loves typography and all things letters, focusing on illustrative type and distortion. In her work she experiments with different mediums such as paper cut, embroidery, handcrafted letters, digital illustrations and stop motion.
At a child-friendly heritage trail event, my little girl was given by the artist one of her superb creations–Go Walkeez dogs–to encourage her walking (she was on a long, tough road to recovery after a medical procedure), her confidence and her sense of play! We named the toy art dog ‘Peachy’. That day I will remember for ever and will never forget her kind gesture!
I chose the story Peachy as I was drawn to the heart-warming effect that the simple act of giving had on another person, especially a child who had been recently challenged with medical issues. Receiving a Go Walkeez Dog whilst attending a heritage trail had an uplifting effect on the young girl for it made the whole experience much more exciting. As a mother myself, I know the gratitude I would have felt if that child had been mine, to see her so happy and engaged with the activity.
Helen Oghenegweke is a fine artist and illustrator living in Norwich. She is currently working on a series of mixed media paintings, which includes acrylic paint, charcoal and gold leaf. Her inspiration derives from animals, idioms and proverbs, spirituality, desires for a better world and mental health.
I am in my 40s and disabled. Even though my back kills me the next day if I do too much in one day, I still go out and do stuff. I like going to art shows and concerts. One day when I went to Long Beach for a concert at the Pike, I parked my car on a street in front of some condos because I didn’t have enough change to pay for parking. I hung up my handicap sign in my car. When I got back to my car, I found a note that said, “I wanted to leave you this”, and a $2 bill with a little cat toy and a picture. The drawing is like this skull with a hurt back or something. They must have seen me come out of my car with my cane and decided to give me a $2 bill.
Long Beach, CA, USA
I was particularly drawn to the ‘Two-dollar bill’ story as I found it very unusual and with an unexpected ending. What adds to the value of this story for me is the unknown identity of the person who left the gifts. The story-teller’s gratitude and appreciation of the small gifts really inspired me to create a monument to that moment of kindness.
Bilos was born in Patras (Greece) in 1988, where he fell in love with graffiti and art in the streets at the age of 12. Ever since, he has participated in various exhibitions and mural festivals while also collaborating with brands, designers and artists. His work is focused mainly on letter forms and the use of minimal illustrative elements that compose his imaginary world. He lives and works in Norwich (UK).