A famous radio actress who died at a Leamington hospice recently and had lived in the town launched a heartfelt campaign in her final days to try to make the world better.
Sara Coward, 69, who was known for playing the role of Caroline Sterling in Radio 4’s much-loved drama The Archers for almost 40 years, launched the sm:)e campaign while she was in the last stages of terminal cancer.
Its aim is to point out the idea that just smiling at a stranger is often all that is needed to raise people’s spirits.
She hoped that the campaign would spread on social media, estimating it would take 2.5 million people to form a smiling line 1,000 miles long.
She said: “Welcome to sm:)e!
“This is a very important moment for me because I may not be around to smile much longer, so I wanted to leave as many smiles behind me as I can.
“I’ve recently discovered I don’t have long to live, but in the last few months I’ve found myself smiling more than at any other time in my life. Why? Because I have become much more aware of the random acts of kindness around me.
“Of course, it makes me smile when someone is being kind to me, and also when I see someone being kind to another person. But I’ve also realised how much better I feel when I catch myself being kind to someone else.
“It seems the smile factor works both ways!
“So I started an experiment to find out what happened when I just smiled genuinely at a stranger in the street. Sometimes they smiled back, which was great, but even if they didn’t I realised I still felt better myself just for smiling at someone.
“Then it occurred to me – just the act of smiling itself can lift everyone’s spirits. And that’s how sm:)e was born.
“Now I’m inviting you all to join the sm:)e campaign and find out how an act of kindness can have a tremendous effect on us all, whether we are doing the giving or receiving.
“I’m launching sm:)e while I still can, and dropping the invitation to you, like a pebble in a pool, to see how far the ripples can spread – hopefully throughout the world.
“Let’s get those ripples rolling!”
As well as her regular role in the Archers, on which she first appeared in 1977, Sara was a writer and stage actor, and spent eight years working for the Samaritans charity in Stratford.
She last appeared on the Archers in September 2016.
Many co-stars, colleagues and fans have paid tribute to her.