Photos by Vahid Salemi for Associated Press
Nobody knows who started Iran’s first “Wall of Kindness,” but the similar setups have sprouted up all over the Middle Eastern country. A variation on the “pick a penny, leave a penny” tray, each donation point features rows of hooks and racks and the injunction for passersby to “leave what [they] do not need” or “take it if [they] need.” With winter setting in, warm clothes and shoes are especially welcome. “This signifies compassion toward one another,” Mehrangiz Tavassoli, who contributed a wool sweater on a wall in central Tehran, told Associated Press. “In the past, I did not know what to do with donations. Now, those who need can take what they want.”
According to government estimates, Tehran has about 15,000 homeless people, a third of whom are women. The “Wall of Kindness” allows those in need to take what they need—coats, pants, dresses, boots—without judgement or fear of reprisal.
“The Wall of Kindness is a beautiful gesture,” Saghar Maliani, who left a long coat, said. “It keeps those who are in need from begging at the doors of homes. This way, their reputation is not harmed.”
The casualness of the exchange also makes it easy for anyone to help without too much fuss or fanfare.
And, as it turns out, a little kindness can go a long way.
Soon after the inaugural wall invigorated the city of Mashad, small businesses began joining in.
Some bakeries and cafés have created their own “Walls” by placing boxes of free bread or other food for those who can’t afford to pay.
Like the clothing, the food is given freely and anonymously, so that anyone who needs it can accept it while preserving their dignity.
In one wealthy neighborhood in northern Tehran, one resident even set up a refrigerator next to a kiosk of books and blankets.
“Food for your body,” the sign on the refrigerator said. Written on another above the books: “Food for your soul.”
[Via the Guardian]