How a Simple Act of Kindness can Save a City

A few weeks ago I met a man whose one simple act of kindness snowballed into a huge positive movement that changed the lives of people in his city, country and further afield and I want to share his story about the power of acting on a kind thought.

Can you imagine spending your entire life cycling the streets of a beautiful city every day alongside your friends and neighbours; then when you reach old age you become too weak to ride, move into a care home and never see those streets again? Ole Kassow can. Ole is a 46 year-old resident of the Østerbro district of Copenhagen. He volunteered at a home for the elderly when he was a student. He would spend his days helping them eat and lifting them out of bed.

Years later, a successful business consultant, he was cycling through Copenhagen on the way to work when he passed a care home just a few streets down from where he lived. As he was cycling past he looked at the care home and thought, ‘I know the staff take really good care of them, but they don’t really get out much, do they?’ Then Ole had an idea: What if he took them out for a bike ride?

Bicycling has been part of daily life in Copenhagen for a century, he thought, and these people probably rode their bikes around as well, so Ole rented a rickshaw, went over to the care home and asked if anyone wanted a ride. Ole was surprised when they didn’t just kick him out. “Ten minutes after I got there, these two old ladies came out and I took them for a spin. Then a few days later they called and asked if I could take a few more.” Without these rides, residents of the care home would never travel beyond its doors. Even if they are strong enough to go in a wheelchair, those trips would only go around the block.” Now with the rickshaws he takes them out for 3-4 mile jaunts through the city. And they love it. “Some of them have become quite addicted actually,” Ole said, laughing.

Word quickly spread and a few weeks after that first ride Ole got a call from the City of Copenhagen asking for his help to expand the programme. “They said, ‘We want to buy some rickshaws,’ so they went out and bought five trikes.” The bikes arrived in March and the program, has grown from strength to strength since, spreading throughout Copenhagen, Denmark and beyond into neighbouring Sweden.

“They just miss going around to the streets where they used to cycle and live, when they see a certain place, the memory comes back and they start talking. One of the themes of the programme, is that the city is the most beautiful from the cycle paths. It’s one thing to drive through; but when you’re on a bike it’s even more beautiful. They just miss going around to the streets where they used to cycle and live, when they see a certain place, the memory comes back and they start talking. I get to hear all their great stories.”

A simple act of kindness may not always spread as far as Ole’s example but research suggests that one kind act normally ripples out and impacts positively on at least another six people. Quite often it’s just a simple intention of deciding to be kind when you leave your house in the morning, rather than being ready for a fight. Think about what you could do today and for whom, you may be surprised how far one kind act can reach.


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