This article appeared in the April 29, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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What an Italian grocery teaches about kindness amid COVID-19

Claudio Furlan/LaPresse/AP
A basket with food and other goods hangs from a balcony for people in need during the coronavirus emergency in Milan, Italy, April 4, 2020. The initiative, dubbed "hanging baskets," was born after an old Neapolitan tradition of the "hanging coffee" (caffe sospeso) in which customers pay in bars and leave coffee for anyone who enters and asks for it.

The idea is just oh-so-Italian. Pay for your coffee now and drink it later. Caffè sospeso – suspended coffee – the Italians call it. Only, a grocery store owner in Rome has recently come up with an even better idea: suspended shopping.

Customers at Michela Buccilli’s small shop can pay ahead for groceries, with a twist: They’re paying for those who can’t afford it. Half of Italian workers are out of a job because of coronavirus restrictions. So Ms. Buccilli often adds a little extra. One customer bought a kilogram of oranges for a needy family; Ms. Buccilli gave an entire crate, NPR reports.

Worldwide, the coronavirus is revealing the bedrock of kindness in human nature, as we’ve highlighted in so many of these Monitor Daily intros. But it is equally important to recognize that these acts aren’t simply fleeting moments. They can be transformational.

At a time when so much public discourse is entrenched and antagonistic, research shows that kindness is the most effective solvent. “Defensiveness fades away,” and thinking “about the ‘bigger things’ makes us forget ourselves, to an extent,” notes an article in Inverse about a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That can be writing a thank you note – or doing a little “suspended shopping.” Such attitudes, the study’s author says, “are a really powerful force of change.”

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This article appeared in the April 29, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 04/29 edition
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