It’s cold this time of year in much of the Northern hemisphere. As temperatures plummet, many of us turn up the heat, or reach for an extra layer – that is if we are lucky. For many of the world’s homeless, colder temperatures are not just inconvenient, they threaten survival. To respond to this, an anonymous philanthropist in the city of Mashhad, in Northeast Iran, developed a “wall of kindness.” It was colorfully painted, with a few hooks and hangers installed. Above this wall, a slogan reads: “If you don’t need it, leave it. If you need it, take it.”
Soon after the first wall was built, people began to leave coats, shoes and other warm clothing. The idea spread rapidly on social media, and soon on other city walls. Similar kindness walls popped up in other Iranian cities, such as: Isfahan, Kerman, Tabriz, Bandar Abbas, Shiraz and Tehran (Iran’s capital). According to the BBC, in the city of Shiraz, one person was quoted as stating, “Walls remind us of distance; but in some streets… they brought people closer to each other.”
Due to a troubled economic situation (following years of sanctions) official figures indicate that roughly 15,000 persons are currently homeless in Iran (source: Aljazeera). Other reports indicate numbers are much higher. And thus while such charitable actions are merited, many are calling for greater scrutiny to examine the root of the homelessness epidemic in Iran. Indeed it’s a more complicated story – and at the centre are politics and people. Nonetheless, homelessness is a challenge facing many cities and societies, and this citizen-supported initiative demonstrates how simple acts of kindness can bring people together, creating unity across social divides, and helping people in difficult situations retain their dignity.
Such initiatives seem to be a common trend in Iran. After all, in Tehran earlier this year, many outdoor refrigerators were installed on street corners to leave food for the homeless (source: The Guardian). Certainly ideas for other cities to follow. After all, we can all use a little kindness.