With so much media attention devoted to crime and violence in our society, 95.5% of us would like to hear more positive stories and here they are! Social Researcher Mark McCrindle discusses the research on altruism and kindness in 21st Century Australia. This research focused on acts of kindness and set out to ascertain Australians’ experiences of giving and receiving.
Mark McCrindle found that not only are we willing to help strangers in need, but acts of kindness far outnumber acts of violence. In the age old battle between good and evil, good deeds far outweigh evil doings, as for every act of violence to a stranger, there are 38 acts of kindness towards fellow Australians.
How often do we help?:
86% of Australians say they have helped a stranger in need, while 27% or 4.68 million say they show kindness every day and a further 29%, several times a week. That’s more than the population of Sydney!
What is it that we do to help?
McCrindle asked respondents what they did to help strangers. These are the top 5 categories of kindness:
1. Help with shopping – 78% of Australians have helped a stranger when shopping such as picking up dropped items, or carrying someone’s bags.
2. Help at an emergency – 54% of Australians have assisted a stranger who has been involved in a fall, medical emergency or road accident etc.
3. Help a stranger to gain access or mobility – 51% of Australians have helped a stranger up stairs, across a road or to reach an item etc.
4. Comfort a stranger – 49% of Australians have assisted a stranger who was visibly upset.
5. Help with money – 32.5% of Australians have given money to a stranger who was short on cash.
We even help those who don’t need help!
61.5% Australians say they have done something nice for a stranger “just for the sake of being kind” – not because they were in any obvious need. Most of these (90%) said they would look to doing something nice for a stranger in no particular need in the future.
How many of us have been shown kindness?
39% of Aussies say they have been shown kindness by a stranger in the past week (from having a door held open or dropped items picked up), while more than 1 in 4 say they have been shown significant kindness by a stranger in the last week, such as being driven somewhere, given something, or have had a stranger go out of their way to help.
What motivates Australians to perform good deeds?
1. Altruism: 49.5% are motivated out of a sense of good will – “if somebody is in need I have to help out”.
2. Delight: 38.5% of Australians lend a helping hand to a stranger simply because of the joy they receive in putting a smile on another’s face!
3. God/belief in after-life: Only 8% perform good deeds because of religious beliefs.
Who do we help?
Australians are most likely to help the elderly (93%), children (63.5%) and women with children (30%). We are not as likely to approach a struggling dad (only 12%) and are more likely to come to the aid of someone of our own gender, while 42% say they would help out someone of their own ethnic group/culture first.
Male participants who weren’t as likely to help children as other groups said it was because they feared being looked at suspiciously and made comments like: “the rules have changed these days”; “you have got to be careful where children are concerned”; and “children are sometimes reluctant to accept help from a stranger.”
Are believers more charitable?
Most of us (61%) don’t think religious people are more likely to do charitable works. However, of those who believe in God, 85% have gone out of their way to help a stranger in need, compared to only 70% of non-believers. Religious people are also more positive about the state of kindness in our world today:
Atheists: Those who have neither a religious affiliation nor believe in God are most sceptical when it comes to the state of kindness in our world. 30% believe more acts of kindness than terror are performed, while 40% feel there is more evil in the world.
Believers: 32% of Australians who believe in God, but don’t necessarily have a religious affiliation, believe there are more good deeds performed than evil. 26% believe there is more evil done than good.
Christians: Christians are the most likely to be positive about the state of kindness. 39.5% believe there is more kindness than evil in the world while only 21.5% think there is more evil.
Aussie spirit alive and kicking:
3 in 5 Australians believe our nation’s values such as lending a hand in times of need are going strong.
Aussies on Aussies and kindness: “I do believe that…many people out there live in their own world until something as drastic as [the Victorian bush fires] happen…”.
“When people are in trouble, Australians unite. For example, the [Victorian] fires…they have raised so much money.”
Australians who are heeding the call:
Given their reputation for helping in times of disaster fire brigade officers and ambulance officers top the list of “most trusted”. Here is a list of 16 professions, ranked according to their trustworthiness with 1 being most trusted and 16, least trusted. (Bracketed scores are the raw scoring metrics- just to show relative differences):
1. Ambulance officer (1.39)
2. Fire brigade officer (1.61)
3. Doctor (1.97)
4. Police officer (2.32)
5. Teacher (5.00)
6. Minister or religion/priest (5.48)
7. Accountant (5.93)
8. Chef (6.23)
9. Hairdresser (6.66)
10. Business owner/manager (7.97)
11. Journalist (8.00)
12. Lawyer (8.71)
13. Mechanic (8.83)
14. Salesperson (9.88)
15. Real Estate agent (10.55)
16. Politician (11.15)
TWO STORIES OF KINDNESS IN AUSTRALIA:
Kindness in the aisles
“The elderly gentleman stacked his purchases slowly onto the counter at the produce shop, with a tentative composure. The concern was obvious on his creased face, and his moving lips indicated that he was mindfully calculating the anticipated cost of his combined purchases. I watched myself with worry for this man, hoping in my heart that he would be able to afford his desired food successfully. But it was not to be.
His fruit and vegetables came to a total beyond his means…“For one moment I felt an ache in my heart as I imagined him walking away without his fruit, but I did not have time to dwell on it, because seconds later, a busy mum with several children milling around her and with a trolley full herself, deftly whisked the two fruit bags away and passed them to her own cashier lady. “Put these on my bill please” I heard her direct quietly to the assistant…“I wanted to rush out and commend her generosity but her mind was now elsewhere as she chatted with her kids and loaded up her car. I guess kindness is all in a day’s work for some strangers.”
“I worked for many years as a missionary and theological lecturer of the Presbyterian Church in Indonesia. I served in the eastern part of the country in the North Molucca Islands, the fabled Spice Islands of old…“After serving there some years, I became seriously ill with a life-threatening tropical illness. It was necessary for me to seek medical attention urgently in Australia. I was a semi-permanent resident of Indonesia.
After a long and difficult journey, I arrived at Ternate, the administrative centre of the North Molucca Islands, and lay in a house while my colleagues went to arrange for my papers to be prepared for me and my family to leave for Australia.
“It was a Friday morning, the Muslim day of prayer, when all government offices normally opened at 8am and closed at 11am. The only plane for the next four days left on that Friday afternoon. Usually it took two to three days to prepare papers for a resident with my status to depart from and return to Indonesia. The five staff of the Indonesian immigration office were all Muslim. They would normally have closed the office at 11am and gone to pray in the mosque. Shortly after 8am, my colleague came back to the house and told me that he had lodged all my papers and those of my family for our departure, and that he had been told that I should just wait.
I assumed that we would not be able to leave for three or four more days and this greatly worried the nurse looking after me. Suddenly, about 1pm, two jeeps from the immigration office arrived at the house. In them were three of the Muslim officials from the immigration office. My papers and those of my family were all ready. They had done about two to three days’ work in just over an hour, all five working together.
Moreover, they had kept the office open past normal closing time and would not now be able to attend prayers in the mosque.
They came into the house, helped pack the remaining cases and drove me and my family to the airport. Not only had they stayed behind to work, they had also telephoned the airline to make the necessary
reservations for us to leave. Here was I, a Christian leader, being cared for by a group of devout Muslims…That compassion probably saved my life.”
More good news, please:
McCrindle Research have been collecting stories of random kindness from strangers for their not for profit book soon to be published. Prominent as well as ordinary Australians have contributed. If you would like to share a random act of kindness from a stranger or someone not that is well known to you, that came your way at some point in your life, then go to www.australiaspeaks.com and click on ‘Samaritan Stories’ to submit your account of kindness.
Sources: McCrindle Research.
Research method:National survey of 2500 Australians by McCrindle Research.
Photo Credit: Lisa F. Young – Fotolia.com