On World Kindness Day, make kind the new cool

Starbucks and Born This Way Foundation are teaming up to celebrate good deeds and spread kindness for World Kindness Day on Nov. 13.

As late October wildfires fires raged around Maya Enista Smith’s California community, streams of fire trucks and emergency responders raced into town.

In all the chaos and uncertainty, Smith said it was the small acts of kindness that kept people’s spirits afloat – neighbors helping each other, text messages offering rides and supplies, emails offering displaced families a place to stay, shower or use Wi-Fi.

“It is a state of panic unlike one I’ve ever felt as a parent,” said Smith, executive director of Born This Way Foundation. “But I am, today and always, grateful for the big and small acts of kindness around us.”

In a world that sometimes feels afire with divisiveness, apathy, fear and suffering, kindness can fight the flames, Smith said. This is why Starbucks and Born This Way Foundation have teamed up to celebrate World Kindness Day on Wednesday, November 13th. “Taking a day to spread kindness and celebrate the powerful multiplier of good deeds feels especially urgent and important at this moment in time,” Smith said.

“Kindness is transformative. On a bad day, it can give you hope in the form of a much-needed smile from a stranger and on your worst day, kindness can help you stay alive and believe that you can survive your life another day,” Smith said. “We hope to be part of a movement that encourages us to look toward kindness, to act with kindness, and to use kindness not only to survive, but also thrive.  The more kindness, the better – on World Kindness Day and always.”

Born This Way Foundation was founded in 2012 by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta with the mission of nurturing a kinder, braver world. Partnering with Starbucks, said Smith, makes a lot of sense, given the company’s mission to “inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

Smith said she’s visited Starbucks all over the world and kindness is core at every store. Sometimes, the kindness begins before you even go inside.

At a Starbucks store on a hill overlooking Charleston, West Virginia, there’s a sign affixed to the front door: “You matter.” Mark Mahoney, who manages the store, said he’s given kindness and creating a culture of kindness a lot of thought.

“In the world we live in, we’re conditioned to be constantly defensive. What I’m learning is that once you retrain your actions and outlook on how to be kind in simple ways, it actually comes very easily,” Mahoney said. “The impact someone can have by one small gesture – holding the door open, asking deeper questions to strangers, or just smiling – can have a profound impact on someone’s day, even if it’s just for a small moment. Partners in stores are set up in an ideal environment for this, and once we realized that, we leaned into those ideas and really started to see incredible things happening.”

On Wednesday, World Kindness Day, Starbucks and Born This Way Foundation are co-hosting community events at six stores in neighborhoods across the country. Step into one of these stores and have a cup of coffee with a local nonprofit organization, a moment of community and maybe even an invitation to take part in a service project right there. Locations and hours (all in local time) are below:

  • Walnut Creek, Calif., 12 to 3 p.m., 1601 Mount Diablo, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
  • New York City, 1 to 5 p.m., 424 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
  • Los Angeles, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 7624 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046
  • Las Vegas, 1 to 4 p.m., 8975 S. Eastern Avenue #A, Las Vegas, NV 89123
  • Seattle, 3 to 6 p.m., 1600 E Olive Way, Seattle, WA 98102
  • Chicago, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 1003 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

If you can’t join a celebration in person, here are some ideas and inspiration from Starbucks partners and Born This Way Foundation on how to celebrate kindness – on World Kindness Day and everyday – at your local Starbucks, in your community and in your life.

Write a note.

Taking the time to hand write a note, be it a Post-it, a card or a letter, can make a big difference. Corinne Kinder, a store manager in Riverside, Calif., created a wall of notes in her store to remind partners and customers they matter. People write affirmations, draw animals – a customer has even used the wall for a marriage proposal.

“Customers enjoy reading the messages and take selfies by our wall,” Kinder said. “It also helps my more introverted partners talk to customers. It is helping our store mission of becoming a destination rather than a location of convenience.”

Craig Poland, a store manager in Flower Mound, Texas, created a “kindness corner” in his store for customers and partners to write and distribute positive notes.

“First and foremost, I have a huge love for Lady Gaga and everything she and her brand stands for. The fact that she is so involved in kindness and love really inspired me to become an extension of her work,” Poland said. “And hearing what other Starbucks store managers have done to create amazing engagement in their communities also inspired me. I believe if we are there to listen to each other’s stories we have the ability to potentially change someone’s entire day.”

Pay it forward.

A favorite act of kindness among both Born This Way Foundation staff and Starbucks partners is the act of paying it forward by paying it backward – buying coffee for the people in line behind you at the drive thru. “I expectantly watch for their reactions, which range from confusion to gratitude,” Smith said, adding that you never know who might benefit from this random act of kindness. Be it someone visiting their father in hospice or a young mom in need of a kind affirmation, Smith has brightened the days of her unsuspecting neighbours and served as an example for others.  “We don’t know the experiences of the people around us,” she said.

Be kind to yourself.

“Don’t forget to be kind to yourself,” Smith said. “Lady Gaga said it best at the end of her Enigma show in Las Vegas when she told the crowd, ‘Don’t leave here loving me more, leave here loving yourself more.' She wanted to share the abundance of love and support she felt from the audience that night, not hoard it for herself.”


Kindness is a habit. “On World Kindness Day, I urge you not to think about kindness as a day-long, transactional event, but instead as a habit with powerful benefits to us individually and collectively. I encourage you to cultivate practices that allow you to give and receive kindness regularly,” Smith said. “In our family, we volunteer with local organizations in the Bay Area, we have an annual Smith Donor Summit where even my 4-year-old makes year-end donations to organizations she cares about (usually puppies), and we spend a lot of time expressing our gratitude to one another and the people around us.” Maya chronicles her family’s (and the foundation’s) kindness on Instagram at @btwfoundation or @mayaBTWF.

Help make kind the new cool.

Work to cultivate a culture of kindness in your work or school community. Research by Born This Way Foundation shows that young people who describe their environments as kind are more likely to be mentally healthy. Humans thrive in kind environments, including schools, workplaces and homes. Every one of us – in our stores and in our communities – contribute to kind environments.

“Our first goal – to make kindness cool – will require all of us, in big and small ways,” Smith said. “We work toward this bold vision by making kindness cool, validating the emotions of young people around the world and eliminating the stigma around mental health.”

Deliver kindness surprises.

Leave a bouquet of flowers on a neighbor’s doorstep. Mail a gift card to someone anonymously. Bake someone their favorite treat and leave it on their desk. They’ll never know where it came from, but you will and you’ll both feel good about it.

Ask questions.

Meaningful acts of kindness large and small can begin with questions like: What need can I help someone meet today? How can I alleviate the suffering of another person? What does the world, or my community, need most right now? Smith said Born This Way Foundation defines kindness as an act of service to someone else without the expectation of anything in return. Let’s act in service to those around us.

Share Kind Stories and Messages.

Be it in person or online, there is power in storytelling and Smith invites you to share about your kind acts with your community. Authentic stories have the potential to teach us how to be compassionate, forgiving, and most of all kind to ourselves and others. We invite you to get started by spreading the word about World Kindness Day, which you can do by downloading sample graphics and social media posts here.

It’s the little things.

Open the door for someone or give them a compliment. Ask someone how they are and truly listen to the answer. Tell a joke. Say please and thank you. Smile.

“Kindness doesn't have to be a grand gesture,” said Alex Aide, director of programs at Born This Way Foundation. “Just start with one thing for yourself or someone else. Maybe it's letting someone go ahead of you in line somewhere. Maybe it's giving your parents a call just to say, ‘Hi!’ Maybe it's taking some time for yourself to go for a walk without distractions. That's the fun thing about kindness, there's no one, right way to be kind. If you are doing something big or small to help someone, including yourself, have a better day without expecting anything in return, you're nailing it. You have no idea how much it means to the recipient. Maybe they don't think twice about it. But I bet, more times than not, to someone having a bad day or who is just not feeling like themselves lately, it can mean the world.”

It’s also the big things.

While small gestures of kindness go a long way, maybe you want to do more. That’s OK, too.

Jennifer Mccaugherty, who manages a store in Kingston, Ontario in Canada, was inspired by ideas she got from other store managers at the Starbucks Leadership Experience in Chicago in September.

“Today I start my kindness revolution! I’m so proud to work for a company with kindness and compassion at its very core,” she posted on social media at the end of the conference.

Mccaughterty and the partners at her store, located in a college community, are looking for ways to make sure no one feels alone. They’ve started painting rocks with kind messages and writing kindness cards (they’ve passed out more than 500 cards in the last couple of months). They’re also starting monthly community nights where Starbucks partners can share their passions and hobbies and connect with customers, whether it’s arts and crafts or poetry.

“We do it because we want to make the world a better place,” Mccaughterty said. “We want to offer kindness to each person that comes into our store, partner and customer.”

What is your favorite act of kindness to give and receive? Post about it on World Kindness Day and use the hashtags #StarbucksxBTWF and #WorldKindnessDay.

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Photo essay: Caps off to the class of 2024