Updated: Mar 27, 2020
I read a short story on facebook about suspended coffee. It’s a practice where people will order their coffee and pay for a few more. The business owner is then trusted to give those coffees, paid for in advance by someone else, to less fortunate people who come in later and ask for it. Apparently people will even pay for sandwiches and heartier food than simply coffee. It takes a special business owner to keep the records of people who have paid for suspended coffees and I would bet they probably give out some that have not been paid for in advance. It takes a special person to consider that others would like a coffee while they are ordering and paying for their own. The practice seems practical and simple enough and I would love to see it happen all over the US. I like that we can create simple behaviors in our day that consider the less fortunate.
What struck me about this scenario though, is that it takes all personal interaction out of the equation. The person giving their money just adds a few more bucks to pay for someone else. The business owner can say yes or no on whether they have donations to give out or not and the hungry person simply asks, do you have any suspended coffee or not.
Maybe that’s good, I don’t know. I’m not required to have any remarkable interactions with people when I go buy my coffee or food, so why should personal interactions be forced on someone who is poor and hungry and just wants to fill their stomach?
What I do know is that the hundreds of times I have handed a hungry person some food or drink, there is something that passes through us at a relational level. Sometimes it is their shame that I try to cover with dignity. Sometimes it is their gratitude that humbles me. Sometimes it is like a hand reaching into a confused tunnel and offering some lifeline to reality.
Always it touches and changes me.
I want hungry/thirsty people to have access to coffee and food. And I love that business owners and workers alike are coming up with simple solutions to meet that need. But I hope we don’t sterilize the messy, beautiful, vulnerable practice of handing a hungry person some food and miss the deeper exchange that happens in our souls.