Now that I keep my eyes and ears open for great initiatives that change people’s lives for the better, I start noticing them everywhere. This week I’d like to share with you the idea of Suspended Coffees. Founded by John M. Sweeney, currently occupying the position of chief kindness officer (what a fabulous job title!), the movement aims to restore faith in humanity by highlighting simple acts of kindness happening all around us (such as being invited to a cup of coffee), and encouraging others to do the same.

Kindness can come in many forms, including the purchase of a suspended coffee, which is the very idea that inspired this movement. A suspended coffee is the advance purchase of a cup of coffee for someone who needs it, no matter why. But it really is about so much more than the coffee. It can provide physical comfort, conversation, a smile or even a laugh, and a sense of belonging. A suspended coffee can change lives, sometimes even save them.

The idea is simple. When you are in a coffee shop, instead of buying just one cup for yourself, you can purchase two or more cups of coffee in advance for someone who needs it, but is unable to pay.

I find this initiative great for two reasons. One, it is simple, direct, with immediate impact. Two, the anonymity of the gesture takes away the unequal power relation that is often inherent in charitable acts (the one who gives vs. the one who receives, the savior and the victim, the rich and the poor).

I work in coffee shops a lot. On one occasion – at Starbuck’s – a homeless person approached me and asked me for 5 Swiss francs to buy a cup of coffee. I gave it to him. Got him a hot drink, and made me feel good. But had Suspended Coffees been available, it would have spared this man the humiliation of asking for my money.

In Switzerland, so far one coffee shop in Canton Aargau participates in the movement. If anybody from that region reads my blog, I’d love to hear about your visit to that café. In Austria (my native country), there are three. I’ll certainly check them out next time I’m there.