If you had one week and £50 to make a difference, what would you do?
As TopLiners are really quite nice human beings, we got totally on board with this idea. So we set aside our PR, digital strategy and content marketing work for a moment to think about how we can use our time to make the world a slightly nicer place for us all. If the only outcome was making ourselves feel aglow with kindness, that’s still a great result!
Without further ado, here are the results of our random acts of (business) kindness.
I took to the streets of Soho to give ten hungry Londoners Britain’s 'most innovative breakfast' (so named by a recent award) from Bunnychow for free. Richard at TopLine helped me document the activity on Twitter and enjoyed a free mocha on me in return – still paying it forward and after all, charity begins at home!
It wasn’t so easy convincing people that my kind actions were genuine – some people said 'no' and seemed skeptical, moving quickly away from us. Men were more willing than women to enjoy the freebie. Some had already had breakfast at home and politely declined our gesture. It felt strange approaching completely strangers at first, but ultimately it was fun and made me feel energised with good vibes for the day ahead! I would do it again for sure.
Every morning on my commute, I see the same frustrated, vaguely angry-looking people shuffling into Euston Station. My plan was to get a big sample tray, buy a bunch of espressos, and then (like some sort of caffeine-charged Mother Teresa), hand them out to tired passers-by. My notion, I suppose, was to brighten the morning of some grumpy commuters – to put a little pep in their step.
Then I changed the item I would hand out from espressos to donuts, because 1) being honest, I probably would have spilled the espressos and 2) everybody likes donuts. So I stood outside the station, held the box out, and absolutely nobody wanted to take one. In fairness, I did not have a sign. Perhaps they thought I was going to eat them – that I was going to stand outside Euston Station at 8:00 in the morning and eat twelve entire donuts.
At a loss, I thought, “who needs commuters, anyway?” They’re grumpy for the same reason that I’m grumpy – they’ve been up since 6:00 in the morning. One donut isn’t really going to do anything for these people. Twelve donuts for someone with real problems? That might actually work.
Alas, it didn’t really pan out that way. I found a rough sleeper, but he wasn’t really into the whole thing. The guy wore a look of utter disappointment, as if to say: “look, I’m not really in a position to turn down free donuts, but next time, could you just give me some money?” He thanked me and took them, but clearly wasn’t very pleased about it. Maybe there were too many donuts. They do go stale very quickly, and you can only spread them out over so long.
For me, RAK Week has been an unmitigated disaster from conception to execution. My advice for next year: keep it simple.
I bought Stoke Mandeville hospital’s obstetrics and gynaecology department a subscription to BBC Focus magazine to give nervous-looking men something to read while they’re waiting for life changing news.
I split my random acts of kindness into two:
1) Twitter giveaway
I searched for #badday on Twitter and sent out Amazon vouchers to complete strangers. Searching for that hashtag is pretty depressing, but I was happy to help make a random person’s day slightly better through a small gift.
2) The commute
It’s the worst part of my day by a mile – I hate it. I am your standard grumpy commuter – headphones are always in, I try to get to first in the queue for the train and I never look up. So as it’s RAK Week I decided to let everyone else on the platform onto the train first, and then let everyone off in front of me instead of rushing around as I do normally. The result? I missed six trains because I was too slow to get on or it was too full, and I missed my stop twice as I was too slow to get off. But I wasn’t late for work and the commute was much livelier as a result. Winner.
I started this RAK Week full of hope. My colleagues and I would do truly wondrous things; we’d make a difference, meet new people and spread a little joy in this downtrodden world.
And what do the citizens of a downtrodden world want? I thought for a while. Peace, maybe. A bit of tolerance might be nice. Cupcakes? That’s the badger.
I set my plan in motion – hand out cupcakes and say hello to the local people I normally walk past – and wandered off to enjoy dinner with a friend, content that I’d soon be handing out delicious cakey nibbles on the streets of Fitzrovia.
Then tragedy struck. Disaster, thy name is food poisoning. My random act was scuppered by an off-chance meal and I was confined to bed as my specially-made cupcakes were delivered to the office. But true to the spirit of Team TopLine, Nancy and Nicola performed a RAK 180 and were kind to me instead.
The stellar duo took to the streets armed with disarming smiles and two dozen cupcakes. The result?
“It was alright – some people were a bit rude, though”, said Nicola. “I don’t think people expect you to just be making a nice gesture.”
Nancy added, “I think people are really suspicious of kindness – especially in London”.
No matter. As it turns out, random acts of kindness don’t necessarily involve strangers. Nancy, Nicola: I owe you a lot of cake.
I donated £42.73 (the amount we spent on breakfast today) to The Trussell Trust, which is a group of food banks across the UK (some quite close to us at TopLine – there’s one in King’s Cross for example).
It’s amazing to see how even small steps can make a difference. Being kind is easy and fun at the same time. Everyone should have a go at doing some random acts of kindness.
The commute into work each morning can set up your mood for the rest of the day. More often than not, the endless delays and cramped, sweaty tube carriages mean that by the time you get to work you already feel as though you’ve been through an ordeal. I therefore decided that my act of kindness would be to leave random commuters a little note and gift to brighten up their journey. Kind words go a long way, and receiving a “have a great day!” with a mini treat seemed like something that some people would appreciate as the week dragged along.
It was a bit of an intimidating task – scurrying off the tube before anyone stopped me to hand me back the gift was daunting, but quite exciting! It also meant I didn’t get to see people’s reactions, but I thought it would be nice for people to receive something with absolutely no expectation (no awkward smiles or thanks needed!). For me, it felt really rewarding to know that somewhere up and down the Northern line, people would get a little pick me up in time for the weekend, and I would like to make it a more regular thing!
I walk past the same homeless man every evening on my way home from work. For my RABK I decided to finally go and speak to him and see if I could buy him dinner. His name is Ellis, he’s originally from Newcastle and he’s been living on the street for the past 15 years.
I know it’s a cliché, but hearing his story and seeing how grateful he was for the company and the dinner really did put things into perspective. As we sat and chatted and watched all the people rush by, pretending to ignore us (some even walking off the pavement so they could be as far away from us as possible!) it felt weird to realise that I had been just like them up until this point, and that all it took to make a small difference was half an hour of my time and a fiver spent on food and hot drink.
I’m going to donate my RABK week budget to Shelter to help other people like Ellis, write a post for the TopLine blog about my experience meeting him and make sure to stop and have a chat with him at least once a week from now on.
For my RABK I decided to donate £50 to the mental health charity Mind. I am very supportive of mental health charities and don’t get the opportunity to support them very often, so I gave the full £50 to Mind.
My first act of kindness was being kind to Lauren and giving out her cakes with Nancy (see above). I felt slightly awkward doing this – people didn’t seem to want them! Luckily, some people did take a cupcake… but not the people you might have expected. Homeless people didn’t seem keen; maybe they didn’t want sugar? But we did make friends with some men who owned a computer shop on Tottenham Court Road who were more than happy to accept.
Doing this act of kindness actually led me to change my own. The guy giving out the Evening Standard was so rude to Nancy when she offered him a cake that he put his paper on top of them. I then decided that, no, I’m not going to buy the Evening Standard men coffees as originally planned. Instead, I would hand out cards to two lucky members of the public, each with a ten pound note inside.
The first boy took it and looked quite confused as to why he had been targeted. When I saw him further up the road opening it, he looked genuinely surprised; he smiled and looked around to see if he could catch us. As it turned out, I did actually bump in to him later on and he asked if it was me who had given him the money. I said it was and he told me he had given it to a homeless person. That was quite nice in itself: my random act of kindness inspired someone else to do something he wouldn’t usually do. The second guy I targeted looked like he couldn’t have cared less at first. But when he did at 11.30 that night, he tweeted me to say how grateful he was. Splendid!
For my random act of kindness, I decided to give a homeless person I see on the way to work something to put a smile on their face, if only temporarily. To set them up for the day, I bought a hot breakfast roll, a cup of tea, a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar.
I knew the weather forecast predicted rain this week and it looks set to get pretty chilly, so I also bought them an umbrella to shield them from the rain and a thick black hooded jumper to keep them warm.
I'm not going to be able to change much in that person’s life but I can, even if for today, show them someone cares.
I was away from the office for the week, but that didn’t mean I’d slack off getting involved with TopLine’s random acts of kindness. I decided to invoke the power of the cloud to spread a little love, and wrote a blog post thanking all the people who have helped me and the business over the last few years.
It was great to get the opportunity to show appreciation for people who have had an impact on me and TopLine but who I don't always get the time to thank. I got loads of appreciative texts and phone calls – kindness really does come full circle!
We hope our random acts have warmed the cockles of your heart this cold February. Maybe you’ll join us in performing some random acts of (business) kindness next year?