Suspended “whatevers” is a novel way to treat someone else to the “whatever” at some retail outlet that typically sells it, by paying for it beforehand so at some later date someone who has been nominated can enjoy it. The “whatever” could be anything, but in the case of this posting we are talking coffee. As for the someone, this is a homeless person, typically living on the streets. As for the retail outlet, it is a place that sells coffee. I noted with interest that Suspended Coffees in Southend have been going for a little over a year. The idea is that someone pays for a coffee at a participating coffee shop so that later a homeless person can claim and enjoy.
When the idea was first raised, I was skeptical but all credit to the person whose idea it was, having found out about similar schemes working elsewhere, for pursuing the idea despite rebuffs, and the café owner for taking the risk and agreeing to join the scheme as detailed in the recent Echo article. Risk it was, for while most homeless people who subsequently enjoyed the coffees that someone else paid for are perfectly ok, some may not be, especially if under the influence of alcohol, and some customers might be put off, so it is to the owners credit that they persisted. The beauty of the scheme is it is simple. My involvement is buying a few suspended coffees, telling people I know who are interested in helping the homeless about the scheme and telling the homeless where to go.
Despite being proved wrong, I was delighted the scheme has been successful, and showing compassion did not lead to a loss in business, likely the opposite. The café happens to be one I favour and use to meet with people, which added to my delight. It also helps solve the dilemma of assuaging guilt by giving a person purporting to be homeless money and never being quite sure that it is wise to do so. Instead, one can buy a suspended coffee (or even let someone else buy) and then politely direct homeless people we meet in the direction of where he/she can claim the coffee. It is also a small act of mercy that in my experience goes a long way to making those at the bottom of society’s heap feel valued.
I have no doubt the scheme could be extended by involving other coffee shops and into other areas e.g. meals and, while there is always the danger of attracting freeloaders and abuse, it has been evident that the vast majority of those who have accepted a suspended coffee are genuinely homeless, behave well and are grateful that there are people around who do care. While it is a small act of mercy in the grand scheme of things, it is still significant. So next time you visit an outlet that offers suspended whatevers, why not purchase an item and bless the next needy person you come across by kindly pointing them in the right direction so they can enjoy for themselves and know that there are people who do care?