The Independent’s Top 100 (of happiness, not of wealth)

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the richest of them all? In 2013, Bill Gates topped Forbes’ annual billionaire list, with a wealth of $77.6 bn. To compare: that is above the annual GDP of about one hundred countries on earth. His wealth is about the size of Oman’s GDP in 2012, which ranked 65th.

'Underground artist' Kim Kalan

‘Underground artist’ Kim Kalan. Photo via the Independent.

Fortunately life is not about money. As an antidote against Forbes-like lists of the rich & famous, the UK newspaper The Independent last week released its seventh annual Happy List. As The Independent writes, their feelgood list contains “100 people who, without thought of personal gain, give back and help others, rather than themselves.”

Again quoting the paper, the Happy List of 2014 features: “a 93-year-old who has raised more than £100,000 for Age UK by dressing as a bee; a teacher who donated a kidney to one of his pupils; the world’s oldest barmaid; the limbless Plymouth man who founded a charity to help other amputees; the London woman who founded a pop-up restaurant that employs only refugees and migrants; a couple who set up a bereavement service for parents who have lost a baby; and the heroic lollipop lady of Rhoose.”

What a great positive and inspiring message! Happiness often lies in small but significant acts of kindness. The stories of the 100 individuals making Britain a better, more beautiful and ultimately happier place. But the people on the list also offer a lot of inspiration. Their efforts are easier to emulate and more valuable to society at large than the efforts of most of the billionares listed by Forbes.

Let’s share some of the most striking stories (all bios written by the Independent). Even if they do not inspire you to raise money, fund charities or volunteer, they’ll bring a smile to your face.

Jean Bishop. Photo via the Independent

‘Buzzing Fundraiser’ Jean Bishop. Photo via the Independent

Jodi-Ann Bickley: Happiness spreader

A tick bite led to encephalitis and a stroke, leaving this author from Birmingham unable to walk or write. She learnt to write again, and now, via her website,, spends her time writing cheering notes to all those who ask for one. And thousands do.

Jean Bishop: Buzzing fundraiser

Known as the Busy Bee throughout east Yorkshire, 93-year-old Jean began raising money for Age UK Hull 14 years ago after her husband died. She wears a bee costume (made by her daughter) while rattling her tin, and has so far collected over £100,000.

Kim Kalan: Underground artist

Kim, customer service assistant at Caledonian Road Tube station, north London, brightens up the ticket hall with whiteboard drawings. Kim draws up to two a week in her breaks or at the end of her shifts. Her Mona Lisa is among works bringing daily smiles to the faces of commuters.

Colin Marvell: Job finder

After a banking career, partially-sighted Colin, from Hatfield, Hertfordshire, was unemployed at 50. His struggle to find another job prompted him to launch Inspire4Work, a charity that helps the older unemployed gain new work. He also organises soul music events in aid of charity.

Charlie Simpson. Photo via the Independent.

‘Fundraising cyclist’ Charlie Simpson. Photo via the Independent.

Charlie Simpson: Fundraising cyclist

Charlie, aged 11, from west London has been raising money for international children’s charity Unicef since he was seven. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, he cycled round his local Fulham park seven times. Word of this feat spread, meaning he eventually raised a massive £260,000.

Robert Williams: Kindness dispenser

Robert helped set up The Kindness Offensive, a group which carries out “random acts of kindness” across London, from delivering Christmas gifts to the underprivileged to handing out chocolate to passers-by. One nominator said Robert has “a real impact” on Londoners’ happiness.

The full Independent on Sunday’s Happy List 2014 is available here.

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