Today, I had a meeting with someone I have never met before, in the Utopia coffee shop, in the Royals, in Southend, about certain community matters. It turned out to be a pleasant and productive occasion. In recent years, I have had many such meetings in that place and long ago it became one of my favourite meeting places. The management and staff are nice, the coffee is good and at reasonable cost, and the atmosphere, which someone recently rightly described as eclectic, is congenial, to give but three reasons. And there is another reason, and that is public spiritedness and unostentatious human kindness as well as being good business.
I am not in the habit of plugging someone else’s business in public forums and, other than being allowed to spend two hours over a single cup of coffee, I don’t derive anything by way of benefits, like free coffee. But in this case I will make an exception because of the Utopia’s pioneer role in supporting the idea of suspended coffees in Southend. What happens is the customer can pay for a coffee for someone else who can come along later, typically a homeless person without the means to pay, and claim it. Besides being a means of giving a practical blessing to stranger, it gets round the dilemma many of us face when approached by someone, purporting to be homeless and appearing to be in need, asking if they can spare some change. Strangely enough, a week earlier I had another meeting in the Utopia and bumped into one of my homeless friends, as I generally do when I am in town. We walked out of the Utopia coffee shop together, he with a suspended coffee in his hand.
When a couple of years ago, Del Thomas, the coordinator of Southend Street Pastors, came up with the idea of suspended coffees, I was somewhat reticent and skeptical, even after he explained what it was all about. But sometimes the simplest and wackiest ideas are the best ones. The scheme has been a resounding success, so much so that the cafe is currently in deficit when it comes to giving out suspended coffees. When I inquired about the current take up, I was told it was in the region of 8 cups a day. While there is a risk given some of the issues of those claiming a suspended coffee, there has been little trouble or problems with other customers or taking coffee under false pretenses, and many of those claiming their suspended coffee have been grateful and felt encouraged other people have thought about them. Needless to say, I brought a couple of suspended coffees while I was there, the least I could do for allowing me the use of an office without paying rent!
So next time when you are in town and near the Royals, enjoy a coffee in the Utopia and buy a cup for someone you may never meet but who will almost certainly appreciate your kind act.
P.S. A sign of old age and mental deterioration is repeating oneself without realizing it. After I had posted this, I had an inkling I had posted before on the subject. Having just trawled through earlier postings, I realize this is indeed the case – and this was it. While there is some repetition there is also stuff that appears in just one or the other of the posts, I hope the reader will bear with me 🙂