World Kindness Day: What is it, when did it start and how do you celebrate it?

It always pays to be thoughtful, but everyone around the globe is encouraged to be extra nice on November 13

World Kindness Day is marked annually on November 13. Unsplash
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This year, when many of us have faced loneliness, loss, anxiety and fear, a little goodwill goes a long way.

And today, in particular, is a good day to show some.

November 13 marks World Kindness Day, an annual event that promotes good deeds and the power of altruism.

When did it start?

The first World Kindness Day was held in 1998. It was created by the World Kindness Movement, a non-profit organisation that was founded in 1997.

The movement aims "to inspire individuals towards greater kindness by connecting nations to create a kinder world", according to its mission statement. Currently, 27 nations are signed up as members, including the UAE, UK, France, China, Oman, Canada and India.

Where is it celebrated?

Anyone across the globe can mark World Kindness Day, however, it is more popularly celebrated by the nations that support the World Kindness Movement.

It's not yet a United Nations-recognised day of observance, though, so it doesn't have the prominence of, say, the International Day of Peace or Human Rights Day.

How do you celebrate it?

Since the day is dedicated to the power and potential of acts of kindness, however small or large, then the best way to mark it is by performing one.

Whether that's giving a loved one a thoughtful gift, helping out a neighbour in need, or extending generosity towards a stranger – such as lending someone a dirham short of their bill at a supermarket check-out some money – there are myriad ways to make a difference.

You can also be kinder to yourself, such as making an effort to take care of your health, and the planet, by going plastic-free for the day, as an example.

In 2020 especially, things such as wearing a face mask and practising social distancing are also acts of kindness to those around us.

How are people marking it this year?

The UN reminded people to stay safe, sharing an image on Twitter that urged everyone to "spread kindness, not virus".

"The worldwide response to Covid-19 has demonstrated the power of solidarity. People are spreading kindness through their words and deeds – while inspiring others to do the same," the post read.

British department store John Lewis used the day to launch its annual Christmas advert. Usually a heart-wrenching affair, this year the high-street favourite's campaign was inspired by kindness shown during the pandemic.

The clip features a series of vignettes, such as an elderly man donating food to his neighbour, that highlight the importance of paying it forward.

"We believe that the world would be a better place if we all gave a little more love," John Lewis said as the video was shared. "So this year we're celebrating kindness, whether large or small, showing how each and every act of love has a positive impact on the world around us, as we pass them on to others."

One, a global movement co-founded by U2's Bono with the aim of ending extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030, shared an uplifting story to mark the day.

The initiative posted the tale of Mama Nomonde, from South Africa's Cape Town, who founded an organic urban farm and has helped create jobs for a further eight farmers.