In Naples, Italy, there’s a custom we’ve heard about that is known as Caffè Sospeso . . .
Translated roughly, this means ‘suspended coffee’. It has been around for quite some time, originating more than 100 years ago in the city’s working-class cafes. In the intervening period, throughout Naples and further afield, Caffè Sospeso has become commonplace.
Tradition tells that the Caffè Sospeso is a cup of coffee that a well-to-do customer buys, not for themselves, but for someone less fortunate, who might need a drink at a later date. Unable to afford such luxuries, such a customer might ask if there is a Sospeso available and, if there is, they’ll be served it for free.
It might be a small act, but this is a benevolent deed that possesses great power and, what’s more, it’s spreading . . .
To Spain, where it’s known as Cafe Pendientes, and to France, where people call it Café en Attente. It’s a phenomenon that’s occurring the Earth over, of course, and one that has some striking similarities to that thing which, here in the United States, we tend to term Paying it Forward.
This is a subject that is familiar to most and one we’ve blogged about before. It’s the cornerstone upon which Rachel’s Challenge is built, the simple notion that, if you do something nice for someone, it can inspire them to do the same towards someone else and so on and so forth. In Canada, Matt Brenton is documenting good deeds in an attempt to prove that such things can, as Rachel Scott believed, cause a chain reaction. Here at OM®, we have some evidence that might interest him.
It comes not from Naples, but rather closer to home, in Amesbury, Massachusetts, where, last Friday, Eileen Taylor benefited from a Caffè Sospeso of sorts. She didn’t seek this but, upon attempting to settle her bill at her local Heav’nly Donuts, she was told that her coffee had been paid for by the previous customer.
Eileen’s reaction, you’ll be pleased to hear, led her to return the following morning and this time, having paid for her own coffee, she also left enough to cover the next customer’s order. Her actions prompted quite a chain reaction as paying it forward began to prove infectious.
Rather amazingly, the next 55 customers, their own orders paid for already, decided to do the same. It was quite a morning.
‘It was terrific, just terrific,’ says store manager Wendy Clement. ‘It just kept happening, the generosity was unbelievable. I just hope it happens every weekend, because it put everyone in such a good mood’.
Eileen – whose generosity is even more commendable given that, in recent times, she has lost her job – says, ‘It just kept going and going and it was really something. It’s the best $12 I ever spent’.
There are various things about this tale that strike a chord. That people are willing to give to others. That it’s anonymous and that just knowing that someone else has benefited is enough. That people take so much pleasure from knowing they’ve helped someone. That, even in a small way, we all have the power to touch someone’s life and make that connection. That doing something nice can and does start a chain reaction.
There’s a lesson in here and it’s this: we need to keep reaching out to other people because, one act at a time, it is making a difference. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good deed or a donut, a cup of coffee or an act of kindness, please keep paying it forward.