Put Your Coffee On Hold

Humankind has a basic need of wanting to be helped and talking about helping people but never actually getting to it. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

When you reach out of your own comfort zone, the magic happens. I came across three splendid instances where individuals have gone beyond their comfort level and reached out to someone. One always ends up wondering if there is an alternative to the accumulation of wealth and possession of materialistic wants. However, there is always that window of opportunity when you think beyond and at the same time do something beyond yourself.

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Here is an interesting scenario. Cafes in Bulgaria follow the tradition of “Caffe Sospeso”. On literal translation, it means suspended coffee. It is an act of goodwill and kindness followed by almost 150 cafes across the city. Bulgaria is one of the least wealthy countries of the European Union with prevalent social unrest. This Coffee-on-Hold initiative sees people buying coffee for people who cannot afford it.
A customer walks into a cafe, buys his coffee but pays for one more or how many ever is affordable. People in need of coffee and cannot afford it ask if there are any coffees on hold and they are given the purchased ones. Some pay in advance for coffees that they do not drink so that impoverished people get to enjoy it. Nobody ever knows who has paid for that coffee and this is a blind act of kindness. The satisfaction of knowing that something you did is going to make another person happy is the motivation that has given this tradition the push it has rightfully needed.

Siddharth Sthalekar is the former co-head of the Derivatives Trading Desk and the head of algorithmic trading at Edelweiss Capital. He has also appeared on CNBC, advising investors and viewers on accumulating stocks. Now he spends his days serving food to people who are given the choice of payment. Funny? Not a transition people of his professional caliber generally make. But he did. He and his beliefs operate on the fundamental concept of creating value in the society with the firm notion that the society will support him back. He quit his job and ventured out to discover and implement the concept of a gift economy. Sthalekar then opened the Seva Cafe. He and volunteers cooked meals from Thursday to Sunday for free. Patrons walked in, ate their meals and paid as much as they wanted to or as little. The Seva Cafe aimed to remind people of the fact that not all people are governed by greed. He trusted his assumptions around the fact that irrespective of his or her economic standing, a person can still afford to be generous and kind, by either choosing to cook or pay for a meal. The beauty of this entire gift economy project is that it is not meant to run forever. It is to remind society that there is always a chance to exhibit generosity, whole-heartedly. People always want to help. They are almost always kind. The sole hiccup in their entire wanting to help is that they actually do not know how. The Seva Cafe started out as a small eatery where volunteers would cook and around 60 patrons were expected. Today, seven years later, the cafe still runs on the sole goodwill of the people. Given a chance and opportunity, compassion never loses hope.

Another beautiful initiative is the Share-A-Dabba campaign. Mumbai has an incarnate system of around 5000 ‘Dabbawalas’ serving 200,000 lunches everyday. The Dabbawals deliver around 120 tons of food, of which 16 tons are left uneaten and wasted. To put to use the uneaten food, this initiative was started. The streets of Mumbai are home to beggars and children who go hungry everyday. This initiative allows them to have at least a meal a day. The Dabbas that are delivered this way have a special sticker. If any Dabba has uneaten food that is fit to be shared, it is marked with the sticker and the Dabbas are kept separately. The uneaten food is then parceled and delivered to the orphanages and schools. These meals do not cost any extra money for those receiving the same.

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These are three remarkable stories that have a received some limelight. Acts of kindness do not sustain on paparazzi. They yearn for initiatives, pro-activeness and a good heart to begin with. Not everyone can quit his or her job, but one can definitely put a coffee on hold.

– Prachi Shirole, Mumbai

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