Suspended Kindness (and Coffee)

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Suspended Coffee is an idea that first started in several coffee houses in Italy.  The idea is simple.  A customer goes into a café and instead of ordering one coffee for themselves only, they order extra for those who may be down on their luck.  The cafe holds the coffee in "suspension" until someone in need requests it. 

 “I recently entered a café with a friend of mine and gave our order. While we're approaching our table two other people came in and placed the following order: “Five coffees, please; Two of them for us and three suspended.” They paid for five coffees, but only two were made, which they took and left.

I asked my friend: "Why did they only get two coffees and what are 'suspended' coffees?"

My friend: "Just wait and you’ll see."

Some more people entered. Two girls asked for one coffee each, paid, took their coffees and left. Then three businessmen came in and ordered seven coffees; three for them and four 'suspended.”

After a while a man who looked a little worse for wear came in and politely asked, “Do you have a suspended coffee?”

The barista made the coffee and handed it to the man, who then left without paying.”

Then I realised what ‘suspended coffee’ was all about – customers pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can’t afford it.”  From  the  Suspended Coffee  website.

Suspended Coffee is a a way to connect people to those who might need a little help; to show some kindness to those whom one doesn’t know, a selfless act. Remember the movie Pay It Forward in which the character played by Haley Joel Osment takes forward an assignment by his somewhat disfigured teacher   played by Kevin Spacey.  The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Osment’s character conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward--repaying good deeds not with payback, but with  new good deeds done to three new people. His  efforts to make good on his idea bring a revolution not only in the lives of himself, his mother and his physically and emotionally scarred teacher, but in those of an ever-widening circle of people completely unknown to him.

How do we create a revolution of kindness, an incredible concept, where we help one another and “pay this forward”?  It doesn’t only happen  in movies, but does occur in real life as with Suspended Coffee. Recently, I saw a man on a motorcycle slowing down and two street dogs started excitedly wagging their tails. The man stopped his motorcycle and walked to a shop where he bought two packs of biscuits.  He gave these to the dogs, something which  must occur on a regular basis, based on the speed of the wagging tails.   In  some  sense it’s about being open to the possibilities,  i.e.  when we see someone or something in need, we help out without needing any ego satisfaction. 

Let’s take the idea of Suspended Coffee a bit further, where whenever we do  something, e.g. go out to eat, we also, in this example, pay for a meal for somebody else, a Suspended  Meal.  The restaurant owner is so happy about this, that s/he starts offering meals two for one and takes up the mantle and makes food available to those who are down and out on their luck.  A  politician  comes into the restaurant and realizes the number of people in his/her constituency who are hungry and for whatever reasons don’t have gainful  employment and decides to start a job training program with the restaurant and other business owners.  Various corporates also think that this is also a good idea and asks their employees to volunteer their time to do vocational training and then actually hires the trainees as  interns, helping them to gain employability skills which could lead to decent jobs and   security. 

What if we take this forward in attempting to understand other cultures and different methods for doing things, i.e. our way is not necessarily the “right” way. What if  we didn’t use violence to solve problems and truly cared about others, not in only a, “hi, how are you” way  but more in terms of caring about other’s safety, their employment, education and health.  What if  democratic forms of  government existed in every country throughout the world, where anybody,  no matter who they were, had access to taking part?  What if those who had privilege really enabled those who had less, to become part of the system? 

Suspended coffee, kindness, whatever one wants to call it, is possible; simple acts occur throughout the world on a daily basis. Of course there is also the other side, hatefulness, killings, violence that pits people against one another. But, as human beings  can we choose to show  pro-active kindness, for no other reason, than just because we all share in the fact that we are, whether we choose or not to acknowledge, one?  How do we emerge from suspension to really being empathetic and showing kindness without having to think about this? 

It might start with a suspended cup of coffee, but can lead to bigger and better things for all if we take this small example to heart and realize that coffee, like life, comes in many varieties.  We might like it black, with sugar or milk  or espresso (I don’t like it at all),  but the fact remains that it is coffee.  Human beings also come in various shades, have different beliefs, but we all share in the fact that we have evolved from the same place.  The challenge lies in showing respect and appreciating our variety, being pro-actively kind to others no matter whom they might be. 







Position: Lover of Life-Change Agent

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