Portrait of Rich McGuinness & Pat Fiorello for story about their “Unleashing Kindness” movement during a meeting in Atlanta on September 20th, 2019 (Photo by Phil Skinner)
Photo: Phil Skinner
Photo: Phil Skinner

Sandy Springs man’s commitment to kindness attracts thousands

About 12,000 people in 99 countries are embracing Sandy Springs resident Rich McGuinness’ call for small daily acts of kindness.

They’ve signed on as members of the Facebook page “Unleashing Kindness,” which McGuinness launched in April 2017 after seeing the impact of a single kind gesture.

Entering the post office one day, McGuinness stopped to hold the door for an older woman who was bent over and walking with a cane.

He thought nothing of it. But the woman did. She stopped in her tracks and said: “I want you to know this is the nicest thing to happen to me in a very long time.”

The woman’s comment struck McGuinness. Before he left the post office parking lot, he was on the phone to friend and fellow art lover Pat Fiorello. What has happened to the world? And what can be done to encourage even small acts of kindness?

Inspiration and artistry came together.

McGuinness, a retired top executive with the American Cancer Society, and Fiorello, a former vice president of marketing at Coca-Cola-turned-artist, created the “Unleashing Kindness” Facebook page and became its first two members. 

“Our simple idea was, and is, to encourage people to offer simple acts of kindness and to share what happens,” McGuinness said.“I think there’s a whole lot of people who want to do simple nice things every day. But they just get too busy and don’t think about it.”

Some people clearly share his viewpoint. About 7,800 Americans have become members of the Facebook page, including about 580 Atlantans. Thousands of others are scattered around the globe.

And each week, an average of 60 new members are signing up, McGuinness said.

Few requirements exist to be part of this free Facebook group, one of several with kindness as the theme.

Members are encouraged to perform a single small act of kindness every day. It could be as simple as a smile, a compliment, or a helping someone load groceries into a car. Or it could be calling a server at a restaurant or store clerk by name, something Fiorello and McGuinness try to do regularly.

They said that simple gesture can make a person come alive and go from feeling invisible to visible.

“It also makes you feel good,” Fiorello said.

What are barred from the page are political posts, religious posts, profanity and posts that promote fundraisers or specific organizations.

About 3,000 new posts are made to the page each month.

Some members won’t post about their acts of kindness. They don’t want to appear to be blowing their own horn, McGuinness said.

But others happily share their experiences, especially to demonstrate how one small kindness can change a person’s day, week, or outlook.

Plenty of the posts give shout-outs to acts of kindness and heroism that have made the news. Fifty bikers visit a lemonade stand of a child whose mother — a nurse — helped them after a serious crash. Some schools are giving out varsity letters and jackets to students who complete a certain number of community service hours. Schools set up “share tables” of extra food and “care closets” of clothing to help the needy.

McGuinness said he regularly adds funny items to the mix of posts to keep the page mood light and the feeling upbeat.

He and Fiorello hope largely through word of mouth and Facebook shares to add more and more members and to show that small kindnesses can have a big impact.

“We want to unleash kindness. It’s there in people anyway, so let it loose,” Fiorello said. “The more we share kindness, the kinder the world will be.”

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