A ‘suspended coffee,’ please

By Jerry Davich

Even though I don’t drink coffee, I would love to be able to walk into a local coffee shop, cafe or restaurant and order a “suspended coffee.”

A suspended coffee?

Yes, a suspended coffee is the advanced purchase of a cup of coffee for someone who can’t afford one. Think of it as a pay-it-forward, anonymous act of charity and kindness that allows coffee shops, cafes or restaurants the opportunity to serve as a needed middle-man between donors and recipients.

Welcome to the Suspended Coffee movement, which started a century ago in Naples, Italy, and has since spread to other countries around the world, including ours. But I’ve never heard of this wonderful project in our region, have you?

In Naples, “customers of coffee shops would pay twice for one espresso, instructing the barista to log the paid but untaken beverage in an ‘in suspense’ chart (caffè pagato or a caffè sospeso),” according to the project’s website,www.suspendedcoffees.com.

“The barista would record what the patron paid for, such as an espresso, cappuccino or even a pastry. Paid items would remain in the log book until someone less fortunate would come and inquire if there was anything paid for or in suspense. The barista would check the log and say: ‘Yes, there is a paid cappuccino. May I serve it to you?’”

And there, at that moment, the beauty of this project is revealed. Donors and recipients remain completely anonymous to each another. Recipients are treated with dignity and no one else has to know they are receiving an act of immediate coffee-flavored charity.

In Italy, “donors would compete with other donors as to who could leave more paid coffees behind, and baristas all over the city took great pride in carefully recording each entry and serving it,” the project states.

“It’s about more than the coffee,” said John Sweeney, a young plumber from Cork, Ireland, who started a social media movement to spread awareness of this project.

Of course it is about more than the coffee. It’s about warming up someone else’s otherwise cold day. It also removes the patronizing “act of charity” that’s often involved such face-to-face exchanges.

It’s a win-win-win situation on multiple levels, beginning with a primal instinct in all of us to help others in need. It could be through a suspended coffee, or bowl of soup or entire meal.

We don’t have to wonder where our donation is truly going or worry if it’s being divided to pay for an organization’s overhead costs or administrative earnings. We also don’t have to be concerned that the recipients would spend our donation on booze, drugs or other unhealthy pursuits.

Plus, our “suspended” purchase also helps support the local business and its workers, whether it’s a coffee shop, café or restaurant.

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