It’s 2015 and it seems, already this year has started off on a difficult note. Life affirming stories seem hard to come by, so if you are feeling a bit exhausted from the holidays, blue from the news and cold foggy weather here’s a bit of a jolt to bring some sunshine into your heart.
The sharing economy seems to be changing how we manage fundamental parts of our lives. As the U.S. economy strengthens, more and more “sharing” seems to be happening with cars, taxis, apartments and bikes. Even in my little sleepy San Francisco neighborhood these free street libraries are popping up and the robust trading of garden harvests is bringing people together and making use of food that might just rot on the vine otherwise.
A recent article in the New York Times typified the small gestures of sharing that can make a big impact on people’s lives. In Naples, and across Italy, the idea of paying something forward, albeit as minimal as a coffee, is being revived and taking root. A simple anonymous gesture, paying for an extra cup of coffee for a future needy patron or simply as an act of kindness has a lovely aroma to it.
Coffee, long a religious part of daily life in many countries, is of course now almost as important to U.S. java lovers. I know I love a special cappuccino, latte or fresh roasted and brewed cup when I’m out and about, but have curbed my habit a bit in recent years while pinching my pennies. I make my own latte at home and allow myself a couple out a month. I’m not going to pay for my kids’ college education on saved lattes but you get my point.
The “suspended coffee” or caffè sospeso is a Neapolitan tradition that boomed during the Second World War and has had a renaissance in recent years in reaction to tough economic times.
Drinking coffee in Naples, other parts of Italy and many places in Europe is both a ritual and often done in community. Cafes are the hub of social and cultural life and an espresso among friends is never considered a luxury or treat, just part of life’s daily rhythm.
Wouldn’t you be charmed to walk into an Italian cafe and be offered a free coffee, paid for by a local patron? Better yet, how about as a traveler doing this for the locals? A small act of kindness that could make someone’s day.