AMID the political spats and celebrity feuds, an occasional story pops up to show the more compassionate side of human nature.

From the well-wisher who pays a stranger's overdue parking ticket, to the charity drives dedicated to a poor soul who has fallen on hard times, these are the tales that show how if you put enough random acts of kindness together you can change the world.

Though celebrating the kindness of strangers is nothing new, there is a now a movement dedicated to each of us performing a good deed.

Today, as Random Acts of Kindness Week begins, participants are encouraged "to leave the world better than they found it" through small, spontaneous gestures of goodwill to others.

A global movement originating in the United States, the drive is also followed by a specially-designated World Kindness Day later in the year which aims to "celebrate and promote kindness in all its forms".

According to "kindness czar" Dr David Hamilton, from Dunblane, kindness is something people are beginning to take more seriously and integrate more in their lives.

"It's definitely improving, it's getting really cool these days," he said. "And I'm warmed by the fact that it is becoming more cool, in the sense that people are taking being kind more seriously, almost as an antidote to some of the worse conditions in the world.

"We find when we go more out of our way to help people out, we bring more glue and cohesion to families, to streets, to socials groups. That's how I see it on the ground level and it's beginning to work up momentum."

Some anonymous acts of kindness have really touched the heart of the nation. There was the shopper in Liverpool who shared the story of finding £5 tucked inside a book in his local Waterstones.

Attached was a note which read: "Enjoy a cuppa on me or pass it along to give another a smile to someone else."

Acts like these are particularly important, says Hamilton, "because when you get your ego out of the way, you know you're just doing it because it's the right thing to do".

There is also a raft of research which shows how kindness can help the heart, the brain and the immune system.

Hamilton, who has a background in the pharmaceutical industry for cardiovascular drug development, has written nine books, two of which concentrate on the health benefits of kindness.

He added: "When you feel things like love and warmth, this generates oxytocin, a cardiovascular hormone which plays an enormous role in keeping your heart healthy. The main thing is that kindness makes you happier. It's an antidote to mild to moderate depression as it seems to boost happiness and has a protective effect.

"Just about everyone knows that you feel better when you help someone, but it's nice that there's so much scientific evidence that support this. It validates people's own feelings and experiences when they see all these different ways scientists have studied this and conclusively rubber-stamped this. And I find that it encourages people to do more of it."


Homeless man John McGeown was praised in the media late last year for guarding an unlocked car. He stood in the freezing rain in Glasgow for hours to guard a handbag which had been left in the vehicle.

Meanwhile, beautician Katie Cutler raised £320,000 for disabled man Alan Barnes - who she had never met - after hearing how he was violently mugged outside his house in Gateshead. Barnes, who has sight and growth disabilities, was left traumatised and was afraid to return back to his home.

Further afield, stories in the US have included the tippers who have left big sums for long-suffering staff, with kind-hearted messages of support.