2018 should be a memorable year, not because of the depressing news cycle, but because of the incredible people who went out of their way to help others.
From the Hindu couple who opened up their newsagents on Christmas Day so people who were alone could have some company, to the woman who donated a kidney to the parent of her son’s friend, there are so many amazing humans to shout about.
Here’s our top pick of the kindest people of 2018. May they inspire you in 2019 and beyond.
[Read more: These are the kindest kids we reported on in 2018]
The Woman Whose Thoughtful Notes On A Bridge Helped Save 21 Lives
Travel along the M60 circling Manchester and you’ll see there are several bridges with colourful notes dangling from them. Each note holds a valuable and heartfelt message encouraging people not to take their own lives.
It’s a simple idea yet these messages hold so much power. Since the 10 June, the notes have been credited with saving 21 people (and counting).
Lisa Barnes, 46, works as a manager for British Gas by day and writes the heartfelt messages in her spare time. With the help of volunteers, including local police, she has attached thousands of notes to 21 bridges.
After seeing the notes, one person messaged her to say: “Today you stopped me taking my own life. Thank you for all your hard work. I’ve felt low and thought of silly things and going to these bridges makes you stop and think.”
Lisa said she’s been in a similar position and that’s what inspired the idea: “I know exactly how they’re feeling when they’re on that bridge. Every single message is written with meaning and from the heart.”
The Barber Who Gives Free Haircuts To Thousands Of Homeless People
A Manchester barber spends his spare time giving out free haircuts to rough sleepers in the UK – and has even travelled to Dunkirk to do the same for refugees.
Ged King’s day job consists of cutting hair at Skullfades Barber Shop. Any free time is spent cutting hair for homeless people, something which he’s been doing since 2015.
“Once I started cutting on the street I really wanted to do more,” he explained. “I soon realised others wanted to help, so I ... created The Skullfades Foundation.”
Ged invites homeless people into his barbershop or goes to them and offers to cut their hair, free of charge, on the streets. His service is so much more than a haircut though. On a typical street cut he offers food, warm clothes, sleeping bags, hygiene kits, addiction support and, of course, haircuts.
“It’s so important to give back wherever and whenever you can,” said the 32-year-old from Sale, Cheshire. “Everyone blames the government or blames the economy - there’s always blame - when actually we can all do something to improve our community.”
This Mum Donated Her Kidney To A Fellow Parent After Life-Changing Chat At School Gates
Katy Ludlow, 34, from Northfleet in Kent, donated her kidney to Ravi Nihal, 43, who was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure in 2015 and on the waiting list to receive a transplant.
Katy and Ravi’s sons, Tobias and Jay, are best friends at school and so Katy got to know Ravi’s wife Ish, who explained her husband’s situation one day while they waited at the school gates.
Katy, a mother-of-three who runs a cleaning company, contacted Guy’s Hospital (where Ravi was a patient) and asked to be tested to find out if she was a match. After numerous tests it was found that she was a suitable donor and she was keen to go ahead.
She let Ravi and his wife Ish know she wanted to donate her kidney. Ravi, a former supervisor for National Grid UK, recalled: “I was gobsmacked. I couldn’t believe that someone I didn’t know well would do that for me.”
The Couple Who Spend Their Spare Time Building Wheelchairs For Disabled Rescue Dogs
A couple were so saddened by the number of stray disabled dogs they encountered while travelling around Europe, they started a charity to help, building special wheelchairs for pets in need.
Alongside their regular jobs, graphic designer Cassie Carney, 40, and her marketing executive husband, Tim, 50, run Broken Biscuits, a charity providing essential equipment - such as the special wheelchairs - for disabled rescue dogs.
Cassie said: “These animals are like the biscuits left on the plate - they may look different, but inside they are just the same. And there’s no reason that they can’t be as wonderful pets as others.”
This Firefighter From Nottingham Uses His Annual Leave To Help Save Refugees
While most people use their annual leave to relax on a beach or explore new cities, Brendan Woodhouse spends his helping refugees arrive safely in Europe after fleeing their own countries.
The firefighter from Nottingham, who was a former medic in the British armed forces, has seen countless boats capsize or crash as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea.
He estimates that he has been involved in the rescue of thousands of refugees, frantically dashing to save men, women and children from drowning.
“They are just ordinary human beings like me or you, or like my kids and my parents,” he said. “Anybody can become a refugee.”
This Mum Has Practised An Act Of Kindness Every Day For Over 1,000 Days
From paying for a stranger’s coffee to sending distant friends uplifting letters, Dani Saveker has performed an act of kindness every single day for almost three years.
“My definition of kindness is ‘to give without exception or expectation’. With most of the kindness acts, I don’t know how the recipient will have received them,” said the mum-of-three, from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. “So when I do get feedback, it never ceases to make me realise how fortunate I am and makes me realise we need more connection in the world. It spurs me on.”
The 46-year-old decided to complete an act of kindness each day throughout January 2016 as a research project, but it soon took over her life in a way that went far beyond the regular nine-to-five.
Within three weeks she realised her daily acts of kindness, such as leaving a note and a packet of sweets on a stranger’s car, felt undermined if she later gave into road rage because she’d had a tough afternoon. She carried on completing the acts, but also allowed kindness to seep into every aspect of her life.
This Brilliant Battersea Volunteer Who Spends Christmas Helping Abandoned Dogs Each Year
This year Angela Cox spent her fifth Christmas helping rescue animals – a ritual that has become a major part of her life. The Battersea volunteer, who doesn’t like to be sucked into the materialism of the festive season, instead spends the day surrounded by dogs in the animal shelter. After all, she says: “For the dogs there’s no distinction between Christmas and another day, they still need walking and human interaction”.
The 24-Year-Old Who Helps Less Fortunate Young People Dress For Prom
When she turned 21, Ally Elouise, from Llandudno, north Wales, didn’t spend her birthday money on a car or a new iPad. Instead she used it to buy a handful of second-hand prom dresses.
Her mission? To help as many girls as possible achieve their dream of going to prom without having to worry about footing the hefty bill for a dress, which can often set people back hundreds of pounds.
This year alone she has helped about 50 people through her small charity venture Prom Ally, while also juggling a job. The premise is simple: school children, sixth-form and college students who can’t afford a prom dress or suit can loan one from Ally, who currently keeps all of the clothes in her nan’s spare bedroom on pop-up rails. She has 1,000 garments in total.
“It’s just something I’ve enjoyed doing. It gives you a nice feeling to know that you’ve helped them,” she said. “Some girls have written to me afterwards and have sent photographs of their proms. It keeps me going when things get stressful.”
The Hindu Family Who Invite Lonely Locals To Their Shop For Hugs And Mince Pies Every Year On Christmas Day
Every year on Christmas Day, Shashi and Pallu Patel open the doors of their newsagents to locals who would otherwise be spending the day alone.
The couple aren’t obliged to open the shop on 25 December. In fact, it’s the one day they can have off work because newspapers don’t go to print – but they say they’d rather spend it bringing smiles to people’s faces.
Last year, around 350 people came to ‘Meet & Deep News’ on Christmas Day. An international student, who travelled to their Twickenham store from Bethnal Green, said he found “comfort and friendship without judgment”.
HumanKind is HuffPost’s celebration of kindness, featuring people who do incredible things for others or the planet – transforming lives through small but significant acts. Get involved by joining us on Facebook or telling us about the people who you think deserve recognition for their kind works. You can nominate them here or share your personal story by emailing email@example.com.