Kindness of strangers

KINDNESS SURVEY - The  Rev George Ayoma
KINDNESS SURVEY - The Rev George Ayoma
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When the people of Kirkham organised a funeral for an unknown baby found abandoned in their parish the gesture unified the community.

This extraordinary act of kindness on the part of strangers was born of compassion which went beyond sympathy to become a 
collective hug by young and old alike.

Kirkham councillor Elaine Silverwood admits: “We’ve seen this town unite in 
celebration and commemoration but this went beyond anything I have witnessed before. It redefined kindness.”

Today a survey reveals the North West is home to the kindest people in the country – with women leading the way.

It follows the Economic Co-operation and Development naming Britain in the top five kindest countries, behind America, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand in the “pro-social” league. It is calculated by how many people volunteer, give money to charity or help strangers. It found 57 per cent of Britons had performed a random act of kindness.

Now bakery brand Mrs Crimble’s reveals North West people top the national league for help – in kind. Regionally, 74 per cent of those questioned said women were the kindest, only 19 per cent choosing a man.

The Share the Love survey, organised to give away free teatime treats to deserving friends or relatives, adds weight to research by Edinburgh University which suggests 50 per cent of women are genetically predisposed to helping others compared with 20 per cent of men.

Even in tough times the survey shows that nine out of 10 people in the region would rather experience an act of kindness than win a tenner on the Lottery. Twice as many people in Wales opted for the Lotto win.

Double (84 per cent) of people in other areas of the UK felt guilty about not keeping in touch with loved ones than in this region where 43 per cent maintained closer ties.

Only 29 per cent in the region feel lack of money holds them back from kindness – 
contrasted with 54 per cent in the East 
Midlands. So what’s the word on the far from mean streets of the Fylde coast?

Blackpool Street Angel Alan Rhodes, who volunteers to patrol the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights to safeguard revellers, says: “It’s just about reaching out to others, being a samaritan in times of need. There’s a need for that now more than ever before.”

Blackpool disability campaigner Stephen Brookes adds: “I was born in Coventry and am proud to live in Blackpool. The North-South divide is very obvious here, where we win hands down is in genuinely valuing each other. There is a lot more consideration and mutual respect – it was the more direct openness I noticed first. Hate crime happens but the network of support goes into action in Blackpool in a way that other parts of the country can only aspire to.”

Zac Hackett, arts team co-ordinator of 
TramShed Theatre, an inclusive theatre group, says kindness underpins the group’s existence.

“As a registered charity we rely heavily on the goodwill of others to dedicate time, support and energy into projects. Our members not only take to the stage to perform their hearts out twice a year but support less able individuals who without the care and consideration shown by these people, would struggle to cope with the enormity of some of the tasks. Everyone is given the chance to shine.”

Rev George Ayoma of Fleetwood’s Fishermen’s Mission says: “I have met some of the kindest women in Fleetwood and Wyre.

“One might expect to find such people ‘in the church’ but I meet them in Home Start where I am a trustee, when I am involved with Fleetwood Churches Together, I sit and talk to them in the local Rotary Club, I meet them at schools. The ones who really amaze and fill me with pride are the great number of women who on the surface seem to have very little but give so much – of their time, money, and their life skills to help others with so much joy and to the highest standard.

“Hear it from me, on behalf of the individuals and groups within the North West, our women are simply the kindest and deserve our gratitude and admiration anywhere.”

Emma-Jo Duffy, Neighbourhood Action Programme coordinator at Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde Council for Voluntary Service, adds: “In times of austerity it is the women who help others by offering the hand of kindness to friends and neighbours where men’s instincts drive them towards self survival for themselves and families.

“Women in the North are perhaps less career-driven and more community based and are less well off than in other areas so know that kindness is repaid a thousand times and self interest makes for a lonely life.

“Kindness breeds kindness and we North West women know how to give and instill it into our children.

“There’s no better example locally than in opening our homes up to the evacuees back in war time.”