In the iconic Hollywood film It's a Wonderful Life an angel comes to show an exceptionally compassionate businessman, George Bailey, what life would be like if he didn't exist. What we learn is it's not a very nice world.
Today, unexpected acts of kindness are so rare they easily go viral on the internet and make headlines. But these stories of people being selfless are a timeless reminder that reaching a helping hand to a stranger in trouble is one of the most heartwarming and fulfilling things a person can do.
From the strangers who rallied round when no-one turned up to a six-year-old's birthday party to the couple who gave a $100 tip in a restaurant and the London Underground sign that cheers up commuters, here are just some of the most moving acts of kindness.
Mahri Smith, 18, and her friends were taking photos of themselves in the bathroom of a Canadian casino when a “sweet and chatty” elderly woman approached them. She complimented their outfits and offered to take some pictures, telling them, “I remember when my girlfriends and I would get dressed up and go out like this.”
Smith was so touched by that she immediately asked the woman to join in the fun, insisting, “Why miss it, we are all out right now, aren’t we?”
The series of photos have since gone viral on Twitter, and it’s clear to see from the smile on her face that the encounter made the elderly woman’s night.
“Short story: we have a new friend,” said Smith.
A woman with breast cancer was stunned to learn her and her family’s meal had been paid for by a stranger at the Chinese restuarant where they were dining in early December.
The kind diner explained how they had lost their wife to cancer and wanted to give Jerina Edwards, who has lost her hair through treatement, an early Christmas present...
Image: Jerina Edwards
Showing her appreciation of the gesture on Facebook, Jerina Edwards, from Oklahoma, wrote, “More than anything, having cancer has shown me that there are a lot of good:people in this world…Whoever you are - thank you.”
Edwards, a respiratory therapist, writes about her struggle with breast cancer on her blog, Working With It.
Image: Jerina Edwards
Nothing warms our hearts quite like a random act of kindness with some adorable dogs thrown in for good measure, so this tale certainly doesn't disappoint.
The cross-country running team from St. Joseph High School in California took a group of lucky pups from the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter along with them on their daily run. Each student was paired with a dog and the team coach, Luis Escobar, wrote on Facebook, "I am not sure who was more excited and having the most fun… the dogs or the kids."
In July 2016, West Yorkshire Police received a call from staff at Sainsbury’s in Huddersfield. An elderly lady had gone into the supermarket and chosen some shopping and flowers – but, suffering from dementia, she became confused and distressed about what to do next.
According to a Facebook post from West Yorkshire Police’s Kirklees Rural branch, Sainsbury’s staff let the lady take her shopping home for free. ‘PC Dave’ then drove her home, holding her hand all the way to reassure her.
“Once the lady was home, PC Dave got her settled, put her flowers on display in the window, and put her shopping away,” said Kirklees Rural police. “All in a day’s work!”
Chris Topping got more than he expected when he opened a book in his local Waterstones. The 24-year-old was browsing through the children’s book The Fox and the Star in Liverpool when he came across an anonymous note hidden in some of the pages.
The note read: “Hi, if you are finding this money then know the universe is smiling at you today. Enjoy a cuppa on me or pass it along to give another a smile to someone else! Have a great day!”
Chris said the note did indeed leave him smiling all day and he decided to do something meaningful with the money.
“We bought some sandwiches and drinks for a few homeless lads and lasses on the way home to pay it forward,” he said.
“I see a few homeless people in the same spot on a regular basis, so I thought I’d buy enough for all of them.
“But yeah, I think the person who put the money in the book would be happy that that’s where the money went.”
A café in Greece is throwing open its doors to local stray dogs at night to give them a warm, safe and dry place to sleep on cold evenings.
A photo that shows several adorable dogs curled up peacefully on the sofas in an eatery called Hot Spott, was posted on Facebook by customer David Simonian and it has touched the hearts of thousands this week.
Simonian wrote on the post, which has been liked nearly 600,000 times and shared by 310,000 people since Saturday:
“This is a coffee shop in Greece which opens their doors ever night to these poor dogs so they wont freeze to death outside. Congratulations to the owner, he/she is a sweetheart."
The eatery in Mytilene - the capital city of the Greek Island - lets the strays in for snooze and snuggle after it closes its doors to customers at 3am.
A waiter at the café named Antonis told i100.co.uk that they first thought of and began the good deed in the summer: “In the city there are many dogs. When the bar closes each night, the dogs come and sleep here. We don't have a problem. From July, every night there is a dog on the couch.”
Footballers aren't often known for charity work, associated as they are with bawdy excess and ridiculously large pay packets. But Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville made headlines when a group of squatters and activists moved into a Manchester hotel they're redeveloping – and the players-turned-property moguls let them stay for winter.
Wesley Hall, the human rights activist leading the group, told the Guardian he cried when Neville said they could stay put for a while instead of evicting them.
Neville bought the stock exchange building in 2013 for £1.5 million and it's due to become an exclusive 35-bed hotel, complete with members' club.
Now it's a temporary refuge for homeless people needing clothes, shelter, food, advice and support getting permanent homes.
“We were expecting that as soon as [they] found out that we had occupied the building, they would try to get us evicted,” said Hall. “Having a few months during the winter to work with homeless people without the threat of eviction hanging over our heads is brilliant.
“We’ve got a real opportunity to do some intensive work with homeless people and make a big difference to their lives.”
Image: Rex Features
A new mum in Australia who had been holed up at the hospital for several days with her sick nine week old son, has shared the details of a fantastic random act of kindness via Facebook page Canberra Mums.
Although she has chosen to remain anonymous, the woman posted a picture of the touching note she received after returning to her car following a long day at the hospital, only to discover she'd been issued a parking ticket.
In her Facebook post she wrote: "Over the past few days I have been in hospital with my 9 week old son. We were discharged today and as I walked to my car I noticed that I had a parking ticket. After those days in hospital, a parking ticket was one more thing that I didn't need. Well to my surprise, when I opened the envelope there was a note from a lovely lady named Laura. I hope that Laura sees this and knows how much I appreciate her support. Thank you so much."
The note from Laura read: "I saw your car had a parking ticket on it, I'm sure whatever you were going through at hospital is tough enough so I have paid for you."
Along with details of the payment reference number, Laura signed off with, "Hope things get better!"
Incredible footage of a crowd of Londoners working to lift up a bus with a cyclist trapped underneath it have emerged.
The incident, which took place in Walthamstow, East London, saw a group of people attempting to save the victim who was riding a unicycle before getting caught under the vehicle.
Sami Ullah, who owns a cafe across from the crash scene said: "All of a sudden we saw people leaving their chairs at Turtle Bay and Pizza Express and running towards the road. We saw people actually coming out of the bus as well. Everybody was shouting and screaming. Then all of the people tried to somehow move the bus a little bit."
The victim is said to be in a serious but stable condition in hospital.
Watch footage of the extraordinary moment on YouTube.
An appeal to make sure Winnie Blagden - a 99-year-old widow from Sheffield who has no children - has a brilliant 100th birthday has gone viral after BBC Sheffield discovered her story and shared it on their Facebook page.
Winnie lives alone and has little contact to the outside world apart from her carers, explained the post.
"We'd love to make her landmark birthday really special - can you help?"
"To start with, we'd like to get Winnie some birthday cards and letters to open on her big day. If you're in, let us know below, and share this post so we can reach as many people as possible!"
So far the message has been shared 42,000 times on the social network and received hundreds of responses, including offers to give 100 roses, cabaret performances, a free lunch or dinner, a session with a professional photographer, customised slippers, a limousine ride and plenty of birthday cards.
BBC Radio Sheffield will present her with the gifts on 28 May, ahead of her birthday on 31 May.
A café owner's touching message to a homeless person, which reads "You're a human being and worth more than a meal from a dumpster" has swept across the internet and gone viral.
Ashley Jiron, who runs P.B. Jams, a restaurant in Oklahoma, USA - specialising in peanut butter and jelly (jam) sandwiches - said she was heartbroken when she noticed some of the rubbish bags containing discarded food had been torn open and some of the food removed. “It hurt me that someone had to do that,” she told KFOR News.
She typed out a note addressed to the anonymous homeless person and pinned it to her restaurant window.
"To the person going through our trash for their next meal," it began. "You're a human being and worth more than a meal from a dumpster. Please come in during operating hours for a classic Pb&j, fresh veggies, and a cup of water at no charge. No questions asked. - Your friend, the owner"
Jiron explained: “I think we've all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand and if I can be that one person to extend that hand to another human being then I will definitely do it.”
Image: Facebook/P.B. Jams
A 20-year-old bartender - who has asked to remain anonymous - is dressing up as Spider-Man and taking to the streets of Birmingham to feed the homeless at night.
The "Birmingham Spider-Man," as he is known, buys sandwiches with his own money and hands them out to people in need a few nights per week after 9pm.
Having been doing his rounds for a month, he hopes his work will show others that everyone deserves a helping hand.
"I've learned that everyone is the same, we're all part of the human experience and I...believe that we need to look at everyone as humans and help each other the same as we would a close friend," he told The Huffington Post.
You can follow Birmingham's very own Spider-Man on his Facebook page.
When Ashlee Buratti threw a birthday party for her son Glenn, a six-year-old with a mild form of autism and epilepsy, not one of his 16 classmates invited turned up.
Buratti took to a Facebook page to describe how heartbroken she felt as the youngster kept asking, "when will my friends come?"
"To see the look on his face killed me inside," she wrote.
Her local Florida community was quick to rally to the cause. Burrati was inundated with requests from parents asking whether they could come along with their children. In total, about 15 children and 25 adults came to eat cake and give gifts, including a bike.
Then the local sheriff's office got involved, with a helicopter flyover over Glenn's home. A nearby fire crew also put in an appearance and the birthday boy was invited to have a look round a fire engine and take a ride on a police motorbike.
"It was just amazing," says Buratti. "The people who came out were so awesome."
A father who took his six-year-old daughter out for a Valentine's Day meal over the weekend in California, was left touched when two strangers left him a heart-warming note saying they've paid for his meal.
The letter written by a husband and wife "who grew up without dads" explained that the couple saw the man with his "little date and were so impressed with what a great dad you are".
"It's so important to have a male role model at a young age," the note continued. "Keep up the good work Dad! Dinner is on us!"
The father shared the story on the internet, writing "As a single dad, I took my six year old daughter out to valentines dinner tonight when this happened. I wont lie, I teared up at the table. So, thank you random strangers. Thank you".
The story of a Detroit man who walks 21 miles to work every day has stuck a chord with the US nation, prompting thousands of strangers to make donations.
Over $80,000 (£53,000) has been raised in the course of the weekend for James Robertson, 56, who gets just two hours of sleep a night in order to walk to and from his factory job in the city. Poor bus links in the area mean walking is often his only option.
Those moved by his plight set up gofundme and crowd-funding sites, and many offered to buy Robertson a car. Watch a video of his incredible story here.
Beautician Katie Cutler raised over £320,000 for a disabled man who was violently mugged outside his house in Gateshead, north-east England.
Alan Barnes, 61, was born with sight and growth problems and was left traumatised and afraid to return home after suffering a broken collarbone in the attack, which happened as he took the bins out.
Cutler, 21, was so upset by the story, she set up a fundraising page to help re-locate the 4ft 6in, 6-stone pensioner to a new home. She rapidly surpassed her initial target of £500, as donations flooded in from around the world, raising £320,000 to date.
The two met in an emotional union, where Barnes was able to thank his benefactor in person,
"I always knew there were good people in the world, and this has confirmed it," he said.
A young mum has spoken about how moved she was, after receiving a £5 note and a letter praising her parenting skills from a stranger on a train.
Sammie Welch, 23, was travelling with her son Rylan on a train from Plymouth when she made him sit on her lap to make room for another passenger. As she got off at Bristol, a man slipped her the money and message.
The note, in capital letters, read: "Have a drink on me. You are a credit to your generation, polite and teaching the little boy good manners.
"PS I have a daughter your age, someone did the same for her once. Hope when she has children she is as good a mother as you.
"Have a lovely evening."
Sammie said she "wanted to cry" at the anonymous benefactor's generosity and has now made an appeal to find out who he is.
"People all around us were making fun of the restaurant & how bad the service was. Yeah, it was pretty terrible. But, it was very obvious that the issue was being short staffed, not the server. He was running around like crazy and never acted annoyed with any table. At one point we counted he had 12 tables plus the bar. More than any one person could handle! As I sat there and watched him run back & forth and apologize for the wait, I said to Steven... Wow, this used to be us. Waiting tables. I don't miss it at all and I never loved that job. I did it for the tips. Steven and I agreed it would feel good to make this guys night when he would probably be getting minimal to no tips due to slow service. We walked out before he saw this and I'm not posting this for a pat on the back. I'm just sharing this as a friendly reminder to think of the entire situation, before you judge. And always always always remember where you came from."
Image: Makenzie Schultz/ Facebook
On a dull November morning in London last year, a sign in an Underground station did the job of brightening commuters’ moods. On the 'Service Information' whiteboard at Earls Court station, instead of an update on transport delays or closures, the message read: "You… yes you. The one reading this. You are beautiful, kind, sweet, amazing and simply the best at being you. Never forget that."
Image: Felicity Morse/Twitter
In June 2013, Alex Sheen, the founder of nonprofit organisation Because I said I would was contacted by a man, Matthew Cordle, who confessed he killed someone while drink-driving. He said he wanted to bring good into the world and was thereafter imprisoned.
A year later, in honour of the man who died, Sheen decided help keep the roads safe by standing outside the busiest bar in his neighborhood and offering free rides to anyone who had been drinking.
"The first group I picked up was a bachelorette party. I let them play their own music. No joke, they played “Call Me Maybe” twice in a row and not on accident," wrote Sheen. "I drove people around for about 4 hours. No one puked in my car so I consider that a win. I finished my journey at Taco Bell; there were like 10 cars in front of me. I thought to myself "most of these people have probably been drinking.""
On a rainy day, a Muslim man in British Colombia, Canada, took off his shoes and socks and gave them to barefoot bus passenger saying, "You can take these, don’t worry about me – I live close by and can walk". The act of kindness was witnessed by off-duty bus driver Surjit Singh Virk and when his photographs were shared on Facebook, the story went viral. When the donor was approached by the media, he declined to be identified, stating that according to his Islamic faith charitable acts should be anonymous.
Image: Salim Jiwa/Facebook
A teenage Harry Potter fan who survived a shooting massacre that killed her parents and four younger siblings received a heartfelt handwritten letter from J.K. Rowling.
Cassidy Stay, 15, from Houston, Texas, was grazed by a bullet and suffered a fractured skull during the July attack on her family. Just three days after the murders, the youngster addressed a memorial for her family, quoting Harry Potter's Hogwarts' headmaster Albus Dumbledore: "Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light". JK Rowling was so moved by the teenager, she sent her a letter of comfort, handwritten in purple ink, from "Dumbledore," accompanied by an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, a list of school supplies and a signed book.
When Maria Torero, a 45-year-old nurse in Peru, gets off her shift she tends to 175 desperately ill cats at home.
Torero has turned her eight-room, two-story house into a sanctuary for felines with leukemia, scattering it with food bowls and two-dozen litter trays to make them comfortable.
Torero is also a mother of three children aged 16, 14 and 6, and has been running her in-house cat hospice for five years.
She spends around £1,200 a month paying for their food and medicine, half of that from donations and the other half from her job as a private nurse.
Read more here.
Image: Press Association
For 31 years, a couple in Missouri celebrated their wedding anniversary at a restaurant called Red Lobster. After the husband died from cancer, the woman returned to the special spot on their anniversary, deciding to continue the tradition with her daughter. After sharing their story with the server, the mother and daughter received a handwritten note instead of the bill which read, "We are sorry to hear about your husband's passing, but we appreciate your loyalty in spending 31 years of your anniversary with us".
Tech-savvy teenager, Jordan Cox, spent hours scouring endless websites and magazines for coupons to buy bagfuls of shopping to donate to needy families at Christmas in 2013.
The youngster from Essex bought £600 worth of shopping for just 4p with 470 coupons. He donated the food and household items, which filled three large trolleys, to Doorstep, a chairty which gives food to disadvantaged families.
Image: Rex Features
In 2009, a dry cleaner in East Side New York taped a sign to its shop window that read: "If you are unemployed and need an outfit clean for an interview, we will clean it for free". The 48-year-old owner, Carlos Vasquez, said it was a way of giving his neighbors a helping hand if they find themselves down on their luck. "It's to thank them for the support that I get around here, for letting my business keep going by bringing me their clothes," he said. The first time he posted the notice was after 9/11 when he says he lost at least 32 clients.
In May 2011, a three-year-old girl names Lily Robinson, wrote a letter to Sainsbury's asking why Tiger Bread was called Tiger Bread when it looks much more like a giraffe. The Customer Service Manager at the time, Chris King, demonstrated exceptionally customer service when he responded with a letter writing: "renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea - it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn't it?" He consequently gifted the little girl a £3 gift card and renamed the bread type Giraffe Bread in all stores.
When Hurricane Sandy left millions without power in October 2012, people who still had electricity in New York used extension leads to set up power stations outside of their homes to allow strangers to come charge their phones. USA Today featured a number of these make-shift power points that were crucial to families and friends connecting with each other in the aftermath of the disaster.
On a cold November night in Times Square, Officer Lawrence DePrimo was working a counter-terrorism post when he encountered an older, barefooted homeless man. The officer disappeared for a moment, then returned with a new pair of boots, and knelt to help the man put them on, reported The New York Times. A tourist from Arizona snapped the act of kindness on her phone and posted it on the New York Police Department’s official Facebook page. Officer DePrimo became an overnight Internet hero.
Image: NYPD/ Facebook
An unidentified person who found an iPhone in a patch of grass resorted to an A4 paper road-side poster to locate the owner. Alongside a contact number the note read: "If you're wondering why we went through the effort of making posters, the answer is that we had nothing to do, and are apparently extraordinarily kind people. Also, you have 2 missed calls from your mom".
A man named Doug Eaton from Oklahoma spent his 65th birthday handing out 5 dollar bills at an intersection while holding up a sign that read: "I have a home and a car and a job. Do you need a few bucks for some coffee?" The idea came about when he asked his friends on Facebook what he should do for his sixty-fifth birthday. After a long list of suggestions, one friend said, ‘Why don’t you do 65 random acts of kindness?' After he offered 65 notes of $5, Eaton said he was mostly moved by those who refused it, but were appreciative, and told him to give it to someone in need.
Image: Video still from KFor.com