The Kindness Virus

The Kindness Virus

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Last week, I received a masterclass from one of the most remarkable human beings I have ever had the pleasure to spend time with.

That man was John Sweeney,, the Founder of Suspended Coffees: a fast-growing worldwide movement that has positively impacted hundreds of thousands of lives with random acts of kindness.

A suspended coffee is the simple act of walking into a cafe and paying for a coffee for the next person who can’t afford it. But as John would say, it is about so much more than coffee. It is about the power of kindness and compassion.

John’s continuing stories of kindness had me close to tears on many occasions over the few days that I was with him. The compound effect of lots of small acts and their impact is truly breathtaking.

What I love most about Suspended Coffees is that it is for everyone. It is about being non-judgemental. We live in a world where many feel overwhelmed by their daily lives and for some, this is accompanied by increasing isolation. At the end of the day, no-one really understands what life is like for another individual. Even for those we know well, it is really difficult to fully appreciate what someone else is going through in their life.

John’s accounts of daily kindness included the most diverse range of donors and recipients of random acts of kindness. To truly ‘pay it forward’ means that we don’t make a judgement about who is more worthy. We don’t make a judgement about the circumstances that people find themselves in. All that is required is the ability to simply approach every man, woman and child with genuine kindness. To truly see every living soul as a human being and appreciate that, fundamentally, we are far less different than we realise. Moreover, human suffering touches the lives of everyone, regardless of age, gender and socio-economic status. Kindness is the universal antidote. 

Kindness has many faces. From multi-million dollar donations, to a simple smile to acknowledge someone’s presence. We all need to feel that we count, that we belong – and this happens every time someone shows us kindness. Live your life with kindness at its heart and life will be richer than you can possibly imagine. We all have something to give and some of the very best things we can give cost us nothing.

Since John’s visit, I find myself a much kinder human being. I find myself smiling that extra smile at someone. Saying that extra hello. Asking that extra ‘how are you?’

And do you know what the result of all this is? I feel fantastic, because I feel myself brightening other people’s days. And that brightness shines on everyone else they meet that day, and so it passes on, from one person to another. The kindness virus is one virus worth spreading.

If you are skeptical about this, just try it. Have a go at being nice to the next 10 people you meet – just for the hell of it. See how your day changes, and then tell me that kindness doesn’t pay!

Pay it forward.


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  1. I love this post! It is so true. I am one of the MOST upbeat, optimistic and outgoing people you will ever meet. But, being female, human and actually breathing, I have my deep down dark dungeon moments. I hide at home and in my head when I feel that way, so that I am not being a downer around the people I love and adore. My friends would be in shock if they knew. No one knows what anyone is really going through.
    One of my best friends committed suicide last Monday. No one knew that he was on that “ledge” for a LONG time. He was personable, dynamic and outgoing, as well as brilliant.
    Love is the simple answer to so many complicated questions. But, it’s so simple and so lacking that people don’t believe it.

    • Laura, on stage at last week, I shared a story of me learning what you just described. It was a time when I was a high school teacher, and I had a student who was “a problem.” (That what us teachers called someone who didn’t fit the “picture” of what a compliant/complacent student should be.)

      One meeting, one conversation, one sentence uttered by that student changed my life. Now, some 17 years later, I hope I’m doing better. And, I get to share that via – I’d love to share a copy of that book’s chapter one, just send over an email!

  2. John Sweeney, I once worked with a man with that name. I wonder…
    I have been enjoying your message for a few months now, constantly reminding me of things known since youth.
    I have ideas for doing things and am not sure how to go about doing them. Would you or anyone so inclined be willing to converse with me?

    • Dot,

      …Doing Things…

      That sounds like the GREATEST title for a book I’ve heard in a long time. What if you journaled for the next 5 weeks. Each week, stop and write down, “What I did this week.” Then, share the big ones (they could be the hard ones, the important ones, the meaningful ones, the downright failures…You get it) with us, the readers.

      I’d sign up to read that post!

  3. Marc,

    Love the way you share what you are doing to make things #Better out there; Thank you so much.

    This kind of “giving” goes beyond the mere cost of a few pounds that a cup of coffee might be; instead, it’s looking around and asking, “How can I put a dent in someone’s universe?”

    Last March (2013) I donated a course to our local community called, “Write Your Book, Change Your World.” It was all about how writing may or may NOT change THE world, but in publishing my books I’ve always had the experience of MY world…a very important distinction.

    So, for those of us reading this post…What CAN we do today to change our world? As soon as we think of it, let’s go do it!

  4. Thank you so much my friend 🙂 Means a lot!

  5. I am one of the few people left on the planet that believes that there is “More happiness in Giving than in Receiving”
    I am also one of the few elite poor people that gives and shares when I have next to nothing.
    My aged neighbor’s 58 year old battered and homeless daughter moved in with her last month.
    She had nothing and was frantic! I only had a few bucks myself but offered to get bus and show her how to get to social services.
    I spent money I needed my self. I got us bananas and coffee for breakfast. I found an application for her to fill out for a free cell phone and paid our maintenance man to take her to Rite Aid to fill her Rx. She has no idea that my prepaid phone is about to be shut off because I let her use it to make calls that calmed her down.

    Truth is I feel great!!!

  6. This post actually made me cry. As you say it is not only about money, it is taking the time to love hug and listen. I wish the Kindness Virus was on the highly infective list. Perhaps I should try to clone it in my lab and release it into the water system

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