I always try to pay it forward in life. I know how hard it can be to make ends meet, and I once had to rely on the generosity of strangers just to get through to the next day.
Whenever I am out grabbing a Starbucks, I always look at the people in the line once I am served. There is usually one person who stands out. A person who is shuffling on their feet tenderly. Someone with very dark circles, with a semi-defeated expression. Someone who has been on their feet for several hours, and who probably is about to go stand on their feet for several more at a second, or possibly even third, job. I always give this person in line $10 and tell them their hot cup of pick me up and a little something to eat is on me.
I know I am not the only one who does this, but I know there are far more people who simply get what they want and walk out. Maybe they feel they are too busy to look around at the people nearby, or maybe they simply don’t think about others. As a society, we have grown pretty selfish over the decades.
However, I recently heard of an amazing concept called ‘suspended coffees.’ This is said to have started in Naples. When someone has experienced good fortune, they buy their wants and also a ‘suspended coffee’ which can be ordered for free by someone less fortunate. It was an old tradition that waned around World War II, but it is trying to make a comeback, with the help of
How wonderful would it be if everyone who could help simply offered the barista enough money for an extra cup? How amazing would it be if someone about to go to their third job, who is desperate for the pick me up they struggle to afford, could just ask for a coffee and receive without knowing it will be a struggle to pay for something else later that week? How good would you feel, knowing your extra change can give someone homeless and cold a hot cup of coffee, which might be the only hot thing to pass through their lips?
It is not just about the coffee. It’s about acts of kindness all around, which people who are in a dark place simply may not be able to see. It is about offering a tangible expression of hope, and it is beautiful.
Everyone should be asking their local, independent café to offer suspended coffees. Everyone should be talking to those people down on their luck, and telling them about a place where a simple gesture can be received without any judgement.
We can be the change we wish to see in the world. We can begin change with the single step to make sure our good fortune spills over and brightens the day of someone stuck in the darkness. Even if it is simply a café, it is so much more than just a free coffee. It is hope. Who wouldn’t want to spare some change to offer someone hope?
Heather Davies is a New Yorker by birth and by definition. Her passion for her city and the people in it drive her to work towards creating stronger and more closely knit communities.