The Soup Movement: How we can all find hope in stories of kindness

Published on: 10 August 2020 Author: Ben Davis

Ben Davis's new book The Soup Movement is all about the power of kindness. He tells us how stories can bring us hope in difficult times...

Author Ben Davis and the front cover of The Soup Movement

This year. Wow. It's a lot, isn't it? One minute we're all going about our business as normal, and the next, we're all stuck in our houses, FaceTiming Granny and washing our hands until they're as dry and cracked as camel's hooves.

With everything that's going on, it almost seems strange to be publishing a new book, but when I thought about it, I realised now is the perfect time. You see, The Soup Movement is about a pandemic.

No wait, don't stop reading! This is a different kind of pandemic. It's a pandemic of kindness. See? That's much nicer.

Jordan and Rio meet in hospital, where they're both undergoing treatment for cancer. They agree to spend an entire year doing nice things for people, with the idea that those people will do nice things for others and so on, and so on, until it has spread all over the world. They arrange to meet up exactly a year later to compare notes and see just how much things have changed.

After going into remission, Jordan is moved out to the suburbs with his family. While desperately trying to fit in at his new school, his mum gives him a flask of soup to take with him. Not wanting to be seen with something quite so uncool, he gives it to a homeless man called Harry. Harry loves the soup so much, he tells his friends about it, and soon, Jordan is secretly running a soup kitchen for all the homeless people in town.

Being inspired by true stories of kindness

Believe it or not, the book is very loosely based on a true story. A while back, I'd just finished my last book, What's That in Dog Years? and was in the process of figuring out what to do next. My editor Kathy Webb, probably fed up of me pitching ideas about hamsters who are also aliens, told me about a news story she'd just read.

A man called Richard Brabin had gone viral for his heroic efforts providing soup to homeless people in Oxford from the back of his tricycle. As a lifelong lover of puns, the fact that he named himself 'the Soup Peddler' was absolutely delightful, so I decided to take Richard as the inspiration for my next book.

Beyond that, there are no other similarities. The idea of someone having the strength of character to get up and make a real change to their community off their own back was enough.

How everyone can make a difference

For the most part, I wanted to focus on the positive. One of the few bright spots from 2020 so far is how people have really made a difference for the better.

We've seen it in hundreds of thousands of people signing up to help the most vulnerable members of society during the pandemic. We've seen it in people standing against unjust treatment and getting real results. And how about that image of the Black Lives Matter protestor carrying that injured man, who very likely was against everything he stood for, to safety? For me, if you want to look for hope, it's there.

And even before all this kicked off, one of my reasons for writing The Soup Movement was to bring a little hope to readers. It's completely normal to watch the news and feel depressed and powerless, but we can all make a difference.

I'm not saying you're going to singlehandedly end poverty or sort out climate change in an afternoon, but it's important to remember how little things can help. It can be something as simple as lending someone a book you just know they'll love, or telling them you like their shoes.

Then, that person might want to pass that nice thing onto another person, and so on and so on, and before you know it, your part of the world just got a little bit nicer.

So that's what The Soup Movement is about, really. It's about making a difference in whatever small way you can. It's about being as kind as you can and it's about seeking that feeling, the one you get when you know you've done a good thing, that's as warm and satisfying as a bowl of delicious soup.

Ben Davis lives and works in Staffordshire with his wife, son and wimpy dog. He writes books for older children and teenagers including the Joe Cowley series, My Embarassing Dad's Gone Viral, Make Me Awesome and What's That in Dog Years? When he's not writing he regularly visits schools and leads creative writing workshops.

The Soup Movement by Ben Davies is published by Oxford University Press. 

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