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.”
WHAT INSPIRES RICH MCGUINNESS?
“My wife, Donna McGuinness, inspires me. She is the kindest and most caring person I have ever met. Her calendar is full of birthdays and anniversaries, and she remembers everyone. I’m also inspired by our children. Our oldest, Chris, who lives in Montana, is a volunteer fireman, EMT, and Water Rescue Captain. Our middle son, Justin, owner and operator of Aquarium Outfitters in Athens, has a kind heart and has been known to have lunch with a homeless gentleman he befriended. And our daughter, Nicole, was a pediatric oncology nurse who cared for children with cancer and their families.”
Why did you decide this would be your post-retirement work? "I decided the world needed this effort to encourage more kindness and caring. I felt most people have a good heart and want to be helpful and supportive. Think our growth has proven that to be true. I also spend time taking art lessons in pastels and oils and volunteering at The Blue Heron Nature Preserve."
WHAT INSPIRES PAT FIORELLO?
“The artist in me is inspired by beauty. And my spirit is moved and inspired by everyday people who are following their dreams, going beyond what’s predictable or going the extra mile to make a difference.”
What satisfaction does the “Unleashing Kindness” Facebook page bring you?
“I feel happy that I was able to support Rich in believing he could make a difference in the world and helping him to make that happen. It’s been gratifying to see the universal nature of kindness connecting people from all over the world. The interaction in this group is a gentle reminder to keep open to and on the lookout for opportunities to express kindness in our everyday lives. You never know what might inspire someone to do or say something that makes a difference for another person.”