Survival of the kindest: my mission as a secret agent of compassion

Forget the Hunger Games, the Compassion Games are set to be the next trend du jour, as Lee Williams finds out during his 11-day undercover mission of kindness

It’s a gloomy Tuesday evening and I’m walking around my home town of Bournemouth desperately trying to find a homeless person to give ten pounds to.

This is not because I have: a) gone mad, b) won the lottery or c) committed some heinous sin that I need to atone for. The truth is weirder than all of those. As a ‘secret agent of compassion’ this is my clandestine mission for today – to perform a random act of kindness to a stranger.

Being a secret agent of compassion isn’t a euphemism. It’s part of the Compassion Games, an international ‘co-opetition’, which ran from 9-21 September, where teams and individuals around the world competed to be the most compassionate.

The Compassion Games was born of the work of American organisation The Compassionate Action Network. In 2012 they awarded their International Compassionate City Award to Louisville Kentucky. The Mayor of Louisville responded with a challenge: “Louisville is the most compassionate city in the world until proven otherwise.”

The idea of an international compassion ‘co-opetition’ was born.

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The games have now grown to include teams of all kinds including schools, families, community groups and even prisons (last year a prison in California entered and had its first ever 11-day period without a single act of violence). For individuals, like myself, there is the ‘secret agent of compassion’ option which is a series of 11 missions emailed to you daily over the course of the games.

The missions include performing random acts of kindness, caring for the environment or the local neighbourhood, supporting charitable organisations and even simply appreciating an everyday activity such as brushing your teeth.

My own 11 days of compassion involved not just hunting for homeless people but also making a tangible act of appreciation for the environment (I planted some seeds in our communal garden) and engaging in an activity that made someone smile (I joined in with my partner’s workout – boy did that raise some smiles).

So did it work? Did I become a more compassionate person? Well, I’m not sure if I feel like a better person to be honest, but that’s not the point. The point is not about what I feel but about what others feel. So, if for just 11 days of my life I thought a bit more about anyone other than myself, that’s an important start.