This heartwarming story of friendship in Ripon shows the power of kindness

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Being kind is good for us - it can be transformative not just for the recipient, but for the bearer of kindness too.

Scores of leading mental health charities and research papers cite the wide-ranging benefits of helping others, and the positive impact it can have on our self-esteem and sense of wellbeing.

Kind gestures can make us feel good and fulfilled, and present unique opportunities to make new friends and connect with our communities in meaningful ways. Doing good breeds happiness all round, and being kind already comes naturally to the Harrogate district and residents right across North Yorkshire.

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The Harrogate Advertiser, in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council and sister JPI Media titles in Yorkshire, has launched a major year-long campaign called Salt of the Earth to celebrate this, which will share inspiring stories and examples of the very easy but meaningful ways that we can all make somebody’s day brighter just by showing some kindness.

Rose Priestley loves walking Olly, and it's made a big difference to her life as well as Martin's.Rose Priestley loves walking Olly, and it's made a big difference to her life as well as Martin's.
Rose Priestley loves walking Olly, and it's made a big difference to her life as well as Martin's.

Many say that they don’t do much compared to other people, thinking of volunteers who have clocked up thousands of hours between them, shrugging away the difference that they themselves make.

But it’s not about how much we do in a quantifiable sense - just showing a little bit of kindness can have an immeasurable, life-changing impact. In the third week of our Salt of the Earth campaign, we meet Rose, a 24-year-old from Ripon, who has the privilege of walking an adorable dog whilst helping somebody out in the process.

How simply walking the dog has made a massive difference

Rose is the first to say that all she does is walk a dog, but sometimes it’s the smallest of gestures that can mean the most.

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The best of friends: Rose Priestley and Olly.The best of friends: Rose Priestley and Olly.
The best of friends: Rose Priestley and Olly.

These days there can be a lot of negativity around the impact of social media and the role that technology plays in the modern world - in many ways we find ourselves more connected than ever, but is our sense of community still just as strong?

Here in the Harrogate district, and right across North Yorkshire, there are countless examples of the power of social media being harnessed positively to bring people together and make a difference.

In Ripon, one woman’s heartfelt post to a Facebook forum has helped her neighbour keep his beloved (and very cute) dog Olly. Due to some mobility issues, Martin isn’t able to walk energetic Olly as much as he would like to, which is why his friend and neighbour Shirley stepped in by asking Ripon residents on Facebook if they might be able to help in some way.

Rose Priestley, 24, quickly responded to Shirley’s post - eager to help, but also keen to enjoy spending some time with a dog again, after her own sadly died a year ago.

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Adorable and a joy to spend time with: Olly the dog.Adorable and a joy to spend time with: Olly the dog.
Adorable and a joy to spend time with: Olly the dog.

Since July last year, Rose has been walking Olly twice a week on average, and the arrangement has made a big difference to both Martin’s life, and her own.

Martin said: “Having someone like Rose around has given me rest time, she has made a big difference in my life. Without her help, I may not be able to continue having Olly around - it can be a struggle at times, as Olly is an active dog who just wants to walk.

“Olly is a member of the family, he is good company and a good friend, and I would miss him if I ever had to give him up.”

A great bond has blossomed between Rose and Olly over the last six months, but it’s not just Olly who has brought joy to her life - Shirley’s kindness in searching for someone to help, and Rose’s response, has brought friendship all round.

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Rose said: “It’s not just the relationship I have with Olly, I’m now friends with Martin and Shirley, who are such lovely people. I think it’s very easy to do something to help others - I work a 9 to 5 job, and I work all over West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire, but I think it’s important to make time to give back.

“It doesn’t have to be anything big, all I do is walk someone’s dog, and it’s very ad hoc. It has helped me a lot too - I used to get out a lot more when I had my dog, it was a good excuse to get out into the fresh air and clear my mind.

“I do a lot of driving and I am inside a lot, so getting out and about with Olly is great when you are stuck in a car all day. Also, if work has been particularly stressful, then the fresh air and company helps me to feel more relaxed. It’s a nice thing to do, and it’s more fun than just coming home and watching TV.”

Rose said small acts of kindness can often open up our world when the busyness of work and other demands on our time can threaten to shrink it.

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She said: “Connecting with other people is really important, it can be so easy to get stuck in your own little bubble. I think everyone should get an animal, they’re great companions, I certainly always feel better when I’ve been out walking Olly. He’s just the bounciest dog and has so much energy. I call him Squish, because he’s so cute you just want to squish his little face - he’s the most loving creature, and we’ve got a good bond.”

Shirley’s Facebook post and Rose’s willingness to help continues to have a positive ripple effect, with Rose’s friend Ben Colson also volunteering to walk Olly - demonstrating how one small act of kindness can grow into a whole tapestry of gestures that enrich people’s lives.

Rose is full of admiration for Shirley for leading the charge and posting the appeal to help Martin on social media, but Shirley said looking out for each other is just a natural thing to do.

She said: “Everybody is so busy with work and we’ve all got our own things going on, but we can all look out for each other. I think it’s just nice knowing that someone cares - little things can make such a big difference.

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“It doesn’t take much - maybe just a phone call, a text message, or knocking on a neighbour’s door to see how they are. So much bad stuff is going on in the world, but we can all do something to make things brighter.”

Shirley said we can all make a difference, no matter how busy we are. She said: “Rose is quite a busy person, but still wanted to help.

“Martin would be absolutely devastated if he ever had to give Olly up - it would definitely affect his mood, but Rose has helped enable him to keep Olly - she’s a lovely girl, and Olly took to her right away. Dogs are a good judge of character.

“Posting on Facebook was the least I could do - Martin always does things to help me. I don’t have a car, and he takes me to visit my dad. What goes around comes around - he’s kind to me, so it’s nice to be able to do something for him.”

Do you know somebody who is the Salt of the Earth?

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Have you been inspired by our Salt of the Earth campaign? We would love to hear all about your acts of kindness and celebrate them in our newspaper. Or perhaps you know somebody who is really kind and deserves some recognition. Email [email protected] to get in touch.