It’s A Wonderful ‘Social’ Life

The kindness of strangers

For most of us, Christmas is a time for giving. But for a small minority whose selfish actions make us all a little smaller, it is a time to take. And not simply take from those who perhaps enjoy too much, but from those who have very little to begin with. It is these individuals who broke into a charities headquarters during the night and stole Christmas from the struggling families of Merton.

Home-Start Merton is a local charity dedicated to supporting families in need through a combination of home visits, group work and social events and during the festive period toys and food are donated to allow them to put on a Christmas party for the families. It was after a long week carefully wrapping the presents and preparing the food that staff arrived one morning to find their room trashed and the presents gone.

All week I too had experienced the excitement of the approaching party as my partner was one of the staff preparing the surprise. That morning I kissed her smiling face and said goodbye, all the time feeling her joy at the day ahead. Within minutes of arriving at work I saw the following tweet:


WHAT?! Was my immediate response, but I knew exactly what to do. Time for action.

I quickly got to work putting all the pieces in place that would be needed to get this problem sorted, including setting up a Storify to curate the developing events. Tweets were sent far and wide alerting people to the tragedy that had befallen this small charity, but not even I could have imagined the impact this story would have.

Almost immediately monetary donations started to trickle in to Home-Start Merton’s VirginGiving page. Hitherto unknown connections on Twitter began to share the story and ask their networks for help. The phones began to ring. At first it was much appreciated messages of support, but by the end of the day staff at the charity had been fielding calls from local newspapers and radio stations. And the following day things only got better…

Almost before the staff had had time to finish their morning cuppas, generous individuals from all around the local area turned up at their door to donate toys and food to replace those that had been taken. Local businesses pledged and reporters arrived. Could it get any bigger?

Friday saw the most amazing surprise ever. The ringing phone had become a regular part of the day, but this call was different. Their tragic tale had reached the ears of Daybreak and Gethin wanted to come calling with Christmas spirit for all.

A few days later the elves, and outside broadcast trucks, from ITV arrived to bring seasonal cheer to this small corner of South-West London. Home-Start’s training room was given a festive make-over and the families of Merton were treated to an extra special Christmas surprise from Gethin Jones and DunCAN ‘live’ on ITV Daybreak.

Gethin and DunCAN from ITV's Daybreak

I’ve always believed in the power of Twitter, and social networking, to be a force for ultimate good in our world. It upsets me to see the stranglehold that big-budget marketing has on the social headlines. Everyone talks about the content strategies of beverage companies and the amazing marketing stunts pulled by electronic manufacturers, but everyday there are stories of hope and kindness that go unnoticed. They don’t have the klout of a well known brand or the big numbers of an influential celebrity, but they are making the Earth on which we live a better place and bringing a large helping of humanity to those who are lucky enough to be part of them.

And remember…

“No man is a failure who has friends”

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!