After a devastating infertility diagnosis turned her world upside down, Naomi Lambert knew she had to channel her energy into something positive.
Struck with a late-night thought that wouldn't go away, she founded the Cool to be Kind Project, a social experiment that uses anonymous cards to prompt people to do a kind deed for a stranger.
Naomi leaves the cards everywhere from park benches to shopping malls, and she's been amazed at the response. She wants to spread the message that even a small gesture can make a big difference to someone's day.
Naomi shares her story
When I had a hysterectomy at 33, the word 'devastated' didn't even begin to explain it.
I could no longer fulfil my dream of having children, and to top it all off, I had to deal with early onset menopause. I realised I had two choices: to continue down the rabbit hole of self-pity and sadness, or focus on the positive things in life.
One night I couldn't sleep and I came up with a random idea for a social experiment.
I wanted to see whether people were willing to do something kind for others, so I designed these little cards and started hiding them in places. On the back of each card I had examples of nice things you could do for someone, with an email address that people could contact to say what they did after they found it.
I didn't expect a response. Then they started coming back, and out of the 50 cards I made, I got 32 responses.
Soon it was picked up by the local media in my hometown, Perth, and became a popular good news story. Lots of people were wanting to know how to get involved, and whether it was going to continue, so I decided to carry on.
I've had lots of great responses, but one of my favourites was of a woman who helped an elderly man.
She worked in a dairy and she knew an older couple who had been coming into the shop together for years, when suddenly they disappeared. A few weeks later, the old guy came in by himself and he was very upset because his wife had died.
She helped him choose his groceries, and it was right before closing time so she shut the shop and walked him home. The next day they planted a rose together in memory of his wife. That one gets me every time!Then you get simple messages like the one that said 'I washed my mum's car without her asking and she was stoked' – that made me smile as that had to be a younger person. It's nice to think that it's all ages across the board who are taking part in this.
The response has been so surprising. I love that people have gone out and acted on it after finding the cards, but in another way I can't get my head around why finding a little card can prompt people to do things.
If they hadn't found the card, would they have done this anyway? I was happy that people are doing it, but at the same time I was surprised it took something like that to prompt people to think of others.
Once, when I contacted someone to say thank you for a kind thing they did, the guy I spoke to said, "I don't want to talk to anyone about it, because I'm scared of what my mates will think."
He said it was actually a challenge for him to do it because he had to do it when people weren't watching. That struck me as well, people might want to help someone but were worried their mates would hassle them for it.
I often just watch people and it's amazing what you see people not doing! Things like not holding doors open for people, or if there's someone who has only one item of shopping and they are behind someone who has about 300 items in the trolley and they don't let the other person go first. Lots of people aren't doing these little things that ideally we should be doing every day.
I think there are a lot of aspects to it, but often it's just because people are in a rush and their minds aren't fully engaged. But being kind only takes an extra few seconds out of your day, and it makes the giver feel good too.
Pay it forward
I'm in the process of starting a podcast and I would love to start corporate programmes, as I think it would be a good thing to be conscious of when you're at work.
I'm hoping to get some help to continue the project, as it can be a lot of work and a big cost to print everything.
I love distributing the cards, I leave them on windscreens, at the supermarket or in the park – nowhere is off limits.
I have friends and family in Canada and the UK, so the cards have now gone there as well.
What I'm passionate about is spreading the kindness message in schools. I would like to give the little ones their own cards to hide, and when we get responses back we can go back and read them to the kids. It's a way of bringing life to the idea of 'this is what happened when you did this', and instilling those messages at a young age, I think, will change them for the better as they grow up.
For more information, see thecooltobekindproject.weebly.com.