I love good coffee and like many fellow West Kootenaians I am a regular customer to local coffee shops. Last week an older man addressed me in front of one of these shops. “Would you have a little money for a coffee?”
“Come in with me and I buy you a coffee,” I invited him. He rejected with a head shake. “They don’t want me in. I’m somewhat disturbing to them. But I would be thankful for a muffin.”
I entered the café, ordered my double Americano and a muffin which I brought out to him while my coffee was prepared. “Thank you so much,” the man said. Someone had already bought him a coffee. When I left the café half an hour later he was gone.
As I enjoyed my coffee, a film about an increasingly popular European project called “Buy a coffee, donate a coffee.” I had just recently seen on German TV came into my mind.
Customers pay for their own coffee and buy another one for an unknown person. A tablet at the wall indicates the number of coffees donated. Anyone, a senior on a small pension, a person whose dentist bill messed up the whole monthly finances, someone laid off unexpectedly, a homeless person, whoever, can go in, order — not beg for — a free coffee, and the number on the wall gets reduced.
The whole thing is not at all about coffee. It is about sympathy, respect, decency, humanity, participation in social life and not being excluded. The small gift from an anonymous donor can brighten someone’s day by offering a bit of normalcy in a difficult situation without being ashamed, having to feel like a beggar.
Knowing that Our Daily Bread in Nelson is giving out 90 meals each day, wouldn’t it just perfectly match the spirit of the West Kootenay if all of our local coffee shops joined this project?
Elisabeth von Ah