Coffee free of charge
Every Russian who finds themselves in a difficult life situation can now have a free cup of coffee and feel the warmth of other people’s care. Many cafes all over the country provide a special social service now, “suspended coffee”, or coffee free of charge. Anyone can buy a cup of aromatic drink for themselves and also “suspend” a cup, paying for somebody else.
The tradition to suspend coffee first appeared in Italian Naples. The initiative pleased the citizens and visitors of Naples so much that soon other countries knew about it. Russia began to suspend coffee only a little over a month ago. There are not many places yet where this service is available but their number is growing both in Moscow and all other regions of the country, an employee of the Moscow chain of coffee shops, Vladimir Vasilenko, said in his interview for The Voice of Russia:
“People get to know about this initiative either from social networks or in our café. This month customers paid for 300 cups of coffee and we have already handed out 200 cups. All kinds of people respond to this initiative. When we were only launching this campaign we went out to the nearest metro station and offered free cups of coffee to passers-by. I am sure that this tradition will make people think about others. We need other traditions of this kind, as many as possible.”
Katya, a coffee shop waitress, says that the number of suspended cups varies from day to day. Over weekends, for example, much more people request them and pay for them. These people come from all walks of life, the girl says:
“We never refuse to serve a suspended cup of coffee. These customers can be retired people or people who left their money at home. Sometimes people ask for suspended coffee out of curiosity, when they learn about this initiative in social networks. We never think it too much trouble to go out and offer a cup of hot coffee to those who need it, in our opinion. Other people specially come in to suspend coffee without ordering anything for themselves. I feel respect for such people.”
The suspended coffee action has raised a lot of gossip both in Moscow and the rest of the country. Some people believe that this unusual social service is a step to building a civil society. Others think that this service is only for the benefit of those who do not want to pay because poor and destitute people are not allowed to enter cafes and the action in Naples was originally meant for those people. Xenia Luchenko form Moscow believes that, in any case, this initiative will motivate people to do good:
“This is a wonderful idea because it should be easy to do good. In the West, for example, they sell plastic bracelets and the proceeds go to fighting breast cancer. This idea really works because the easier it is to do good the more often people will do it.”
Xenia likes the idea of paying for other people’s coffee and she believes it would also be nice to suspend other things besides drinks, such as children’s books and toys:
“There are several publishers in Moscow that encourage customers to pay for books for orphanages, large families and village libraries. This is real tangible help. At the Non-Fiction Book Fair which was held in Moscow recently, there were two stands where customers could pay for suspended books. I suspended a children’s book there. I chose the one that my child loves. I know how much he enjoys reading it and I would like another child to feel happy to get it.”
Time will tell if the tradition of suspended coffee, books and other small things for those who need them will strike root. However, even today we can see that Russians are ready to be closer and kinder to each other.