University City

One Man, 2,600 Buttons and One Simple Message

A University City man is spreading a message of kindness one button at a time

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Ron Newell was not a fan of 2020.

“Kind of lonely, basically,” he sighed outside of his University City home.

The 84-year-old was also frustrated by the rhetoric he saw spewing across the country. Political debates, racial injustice, and the pandemic plagued every conversation. Newell really struggled with people opposed to social reform.

“I hate racism, bigotry, whatever you want to call it,” he declared.

However, since 2016, Newell has been on a mission to make the world a better place. That’s when he was given a button that simply read “Be Kind.”

“I thought in the back of my mind, ‘Ron, you’re a little delusional, but maybe people walking toward you and see it will be a little nicer the rest of the day or maybe even a little longer,” he laughed. “What I didn’t expect: People would stop me in my tracks and say, ‘I like’ or ‘I love that button.’”

Those personal encounters on streets and in stores have become a personal mission. Shortly after receiving his “Be Kind” button, Newell purchased a hundred more. However, he didn’t simply pass them out to strangers. He only offered them to people who commented on his button.

“‘If you had one, would you wear it?’” he would ask in return. “They say yes, out comes the button, ‘Thank you. I appreciate it.’”

Newell said those first 100 buttons lasted a month. He ordered 500 more. Those were handed out.

500 more. Gone.

Newell said he is about to hand out his 2,600th “Be Kind” button any day now.

“I get all elated every time I’m able to give one,” he smiled. “I’d like to cover the world with these.”

Newell half-jokingly said he’s instructed his daughter to have a bowl of all the leftover “Be Kind” buttons at his memorial service.

“This is my thing to try and make the world kinder so I can enjoy it like in the olden days,” he smiled.

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