Friend John Harris, former Vancouver morning radio personality and now producer with AMI Accessible Media recently reminded me of the random acts of kindness showing up in the caffe sospeso movement.
Coffee, as my faithful reader knows, is important to me. Finding a great cup of coffee has been, to date, a journey across four continents, numerous time zones and a bunch of baristas. About the only time I've been away from a cafe serving an adequate cup of java was during the three months Sherry and I spent in the Yukon. Even in the Red Centre of Oz I could find a decent espresso, but that's the coffee culture of Australia for you: slightly more advanced than this northern nation of Tim Horton's and Starbucks, though again, as my dear reader understands, there are some good, independent coffee shops to be found here on the left coast. And in NYC , or BA, or Tucson or even Squamish.
A caffe sospeso is a suspended coffee, paid for in advance as an anonymous act of charity. It's usually a simple, black coffee. The tradition began, perhaps, one hundred years ago in the working class cafes of Naples, where someone who experienced good luck would order a sospeso, paying the price of two coffees but receiving and consuming only one. A poor person enquiring later whether there as a sospeso available would then be served a coffee for free.
The sospeso movement died out, depending on your reading of history, and the history as recorded by the Internet, only to be revived, again in Italy, during the financial crisis of the 2008.
In 2013, a smiling John Sweeney of Cork, Ireland, launched a facebook page to promote the idea of suspended coffees, along with the larger notion of random kindnesses. He has since been celebrated on a variety of sites, and the movement has spread.
Ultimately the contemporary caffe sospeso is a symbol of social solidarity born out of the 2008 recession in Europe. The reason for solidarity has not changed from 2008. Indeed, the more ways we can build solidarity, the better. From Gaza to Nigeria, from France to Senegal, or from Ontario to Saskatchestan, it doesn't much matter.
Does the idea of caffe sospeso work here? In Vancouver or Burnaby, Palermo or Canberra? Well... we should find out. We're all in this together after all. Let me know what happens... firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray