Why the pandemic has made us kinder

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The Marcus Rashford mural displayed on the side of a cafe in Withington, south Manchester on the 6th of August 2021, Manchester, United Kingdom.  The mural has attracted huge numbers of people since the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy on 11 July and the subsequent racist abuse levied at Rashford and other black players on the England team. Based on a photograph by Daniel Cheetham, the painting of Marcus Rashford was completed in 2020 by street artist Akse, in collaboration with the street art project Withington Walls, to commemorate the footballer's work to reduce child hunger. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)
The Marcus Rashford mural in Withington, Manchester. (Getty Images)

The pandemic has put the whole world through the wringer - and it's still not done, according to the WHO, which this week predicted that new variants are still set to emerge.

We're all exhausted and fed up with working from home, schooling from home, and worrying about our loved ones. But while you'd think this level of stress might have made us more likely to look away from those in need, new research from Abel & Cole, the organic food delivery company, has revealed some positive pandemic news.

It seems a huge 80% of adult Brits and 65% of children think more about those around them since it began.

File photo dated 24/9/2020 of Captain Sir Tom Moore in Marston Moretaine, Bedford at the launch event for the Lloyd Scott Three Peaks Challenge. Captain Sir Tom Moore has died at the age of 100 after testing positive for Covid-19, his daughters Hannah and Lucy said in a statement. Issue date: Tuesday February 2, 2021.
Captain Sir Tom Moore died aged 100 in 2021 after raising millions for NHS charities. (Getty Images)

The report, commissioned to highlight the company's `One Box: One Portion’ charity initiative, found that almost half of adult men and child respondents and a third of women are keen to help their local communities.

A quarter of adults said that they would choose to help those in their own part of the country, whereas more than a third of children would prefer to offer help to whoever needs it, wherever they may be.

Two thirds of adults (66%) feel differently about the world since the pandemic, and more than half of children (58%) think the pandemic has changed their lives.

Watch: Marcus Rashford teaming up with Burberry to bring books to kids

Read more: Do you live in Britain's most generous city?

With such an impact on the whole nation, this post-pandemic shift towards community caring and kindness towards others could make a long-term difference to the world.

"I think the reaction to the pandemic proves the lie that there is 'no such thing as society'" says Ali Caterall, author of Kindness: A User's Guide.

"As increasingly atomised as we are, people are dying, lonely and scared, and it's made many of us come together."

Co-writer Kitty Collins added, "maybe we're not more or less kind, we're just noticing it more, more attuned to it, more grateful for it - and, crucially, it's being reported more."

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg poses for a picture holding a sign reading
Greta Thunberg has inspired a generation to be kind to the earth. (Getty Images)

The kindness of high-profile people have inspired the nation, during lockdowns, too, with food poverty hero Marcus Rashford and Captain Sir Tom Moore fuelling the desire to help others more. Rashford was voted most influential (44%) by children, with Captain Sir Tom Moore, who walked miles in his garden for charity, at 31%.

Meanwhile, a quarter chose eco-warrior and inspirational speaker teenager Greta Thunberg.

But while the famously kind were the biggest influencers, a loyal 5% said family and friends inspired them most.

According to the economics observatory website, the pandemic saw an increase in charitable giving at the start in 2020, though donations dropped as charity shops and offices were forced to close and people worried for their jobs.

In March 2020, at the pandemic's start, 400,000 people signed up to volunteer for the NHS on just one day, while in the April of that year, Captain Sir Tom’s fundraising drive raised £38 million for NHS charities.

One study found that mentioning COVID-19 in a fundraising capacity resulted in a "significant increase in donations" by around 8%. There was correlation with areas that had been strongly affected by COVID-19, suggesting that people with direct experience of the disease were more likely to give.

Lovely granddaughter walking with senior woman holding stick in park and wearing mask for safety against covid-19. Happy old grandmother enjoying walking in park with girl. Smiling elderly woman with happy caregiver in park relaxing after quarantine due to coronavirus outbreak and lockdown.
A kind word or a moment of connection made a big difference. (Getty Images)

More research last year discovered that 54% of adults gave themselves a high-scoring seven out of ten on the 'kindness barometer', while 48% of Britons had vowed to commit one random act of kindness every day.

Over a third (34%) believed random acts of kindness are 'contagious'.

The study by Travelodge found that during the pandemic, 56% of Brits have experienced an average three acts of unexpected kindness from a stranger.

Read more: How to teach kids to give back — plus easy ways they can help others

Interestingly, the smallest things were often the most significant, with respondents mentioning 'a stranger saying "Hello" whilst out walking', a smile and chat from a delivery driver and a long lost pal getting in touch.

The report also revealed that 42% felt that that when a stranger does something nice unexpectedly, it makes their day special - and encourages them to do something positive in return.

Two male farmers friendly talking outside next to wooden fence on background with brick house
A chat with a neighbour can give the whole day a lift in lockdown. (Getty Images)

The study also asked Britons to nominate their 'Kindness Hero' - someone who inspired them to be more thoughtful during the pandemic. Again, the late Captain Sir Tom Moore came top, followed by Marcus Rashford MBE for his campaigning to end child food poverty and make meals accessible for children during the lockdown and school holidays.

Frank Mills, 6, who has Spina Bifida raised over £280,000 for NHS charities by doing a sponsored walk every day and came next, while it seems we all love Chief Medical Advisor to the UK Government Chris Whitty.

EDITORIAL USE ONLY Joe Wicks launches the Gousto Cookstarter campaign, which will see five restaurants awarded with 10 thousand pounds worth of funding each, as well as a year-long programme of mentoring and coaching by Gousto.
Joe Wicks kept the nation moving. (Getty Images)

In fifth place was Joe Wicks - whose PE sessions during lockdown kept the nation fit, and helped out many despairing parents.

“It’s heartening to see that the pandemic has changed the way we look at life and has increased the desire to help others," said Hannah Shipton, Managing Director at Abel & Cole.

Last summer, Marcus Rashford wrote to a 9 year old fan, telling him, ""We are not kind to be noticed.

"We are kind because it's the right thing to do. It feels good to help others."

Watch: UK teen with learning and physical difficulties raises £28k for charities

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