What was the last genuinely kind thing you did for someone? Sometimes it’s easy to forget that making someone else’s day better, or helping improve their quality of life, can be the matter of a small gesture.
Kindness Café, a new pop-up launched by Gosh Food, is encouraging you to do just that. The café, which has so far served up food to people in London and Dublin (and will now go to Liverpool), doesn’t ask you to pay for its hearty, plant-based meals but instead uses kindness as currency.
HuffPost UK spoke to Rachel Moule, 40, who helped come up with the idea for the café.
“I started with the idea that there’s no such thing as free lunch. I actually wanted to offer everybody in London a free lunch in return for a pledge of an act of kindness. What we found is that Londoners were quite sceptical, they were like ‘what’s the catch?’ But there was no catch.”
Rachel goes on to explain that kindness doesn’t just help others, it’s also a natural mood enhancer.
“If you do something lovely for someone else, if you start your day either by complimenting someone or smiling at someone, it’s amazing how much that changes your entire setup for your day.”
The treats the café serves up include sweetcorn and quinoa bites, sweet potato pakora, and quinoa, lentil, sunblush and red onion salad. A big part of the food itself is that it embodies kindness at its core. “All of the ingredients they use, you will recognise, they don’t use any emulsifiers or preservatives or E numbers,” she explains.
So kindness is what they did and rather than just grabbing their free lunch and leaving, the initiative found that it gained genuine engagement from people “with children, with adults, with couples, with families, with everyone,” Rachel says.
In both pop-ups, people stayed to chat to each other about their pledges as they ate, which she says particularly challenged the idea that Londoners don’t like to talk to each other. “It was an almost sort of old-school community vibe.”
The engagement from children has been of particular note to the organisers, with some pledges bringing a touch of honest humour to the project. “We had one boy who said ‘I pledge to be nice to my sister,’ and then scrawled underneath was: ‘for an hour.’ There was another child who said ‘I will try not to kill insects.’”
The pledges from adults more often looked at tackling systemic problems, like homelessness, loneliness and isolation with some promising to assist at their local shelters or look out for elderly neighbours. Rachel also says that a lot of bankers passing through pledged to donate a portion of their salaries to charitable causes.
Some were smaller but no less impactful pledging: “I will smile at a stranger,” or “I’ll compliment another girl on her outfit.”
Ultimately, the Kindness Café want to prompt people to think about how small acts of altruism each day really matter. “We wanted to engender kindness and get people to think about that when they get up in the morning,” Rachel reflects.
“That’s all I could ever ask for from this idea. And it’s happening.”
The Kindness Café will stop off at Liverpool next – from the 24th to the 25th August. See more information on their website.