Because it is the holiday season, I thought I would share some research we did that has to do with gratitude. Tis the Season after all. I read this morning in The New York Times about the Neapolitan tradition of buying a cup of coffee, paying for two, and leaving the receipt with the barista to give the second cup of coffee (a caffe sospeso, or suspended coffee) for a stranger to enjoy. The tradition began in Naples after WWII and has spread the world over. Some coffee salons have stickers in their windows announcing that they participate in the suspended coffee movement and in some establishments, people just toss their receipts into an unused coffee pot on the counter for someone to take who is in need. As one coffee bar owner said, “Here we don’t drink coffee, we ‘take’ it, as a medicine. To me, the philosophy of the suspended coffee is that you are happy today, and you give a coffee to the world, as a present.”
I am not sure how the “paying it forward” tradition got started in the United States but I recall first hearing about it when the Great Recession of 2008 hit our shores. It is an act of generosity which we could all share more of this year as it comes to a close. We asked about paying it forward in Weber Shandwick‘s recent Civility in America 2014 survey. Interestingly, 8 in 10 Americans had heard the term. We defined it as “responding to a kind act someone did for you by being kind or doing a good deed for someone else.” Nearly 7 in 10 Americans (69%) say that they have paid it forward for a stranger. About half of Americans (51%) report that someone paid for them. As expected, younger people were more likely than older people to have heard of it, possibly because of the Internet coverage.
It is nice to know that this trend of genuine kindness has extended to those less fortunate here in America.