Today’s Solutions: September 25, 2022

In Italy, where the coronavirus has shuttered more than 2 million businesses and left one in every two workers without income, some Italians are putting a new twist on an old custom to help the needy and restart the economy.

In Rome, the Piazza San Giovanni Della Malva used to echo with the noise of crowded cafes and restaurants. Now the only business open is Er Cimotto — a grocery shop so small that in order to respect social distancing people are ordering through the window.

At Er Cimotto, it’s common for customers to ask the shopkeeper to add a donation to their bill for what’s called la spesa sospesa, or “suspended shopping”. The concept derives from the century-old Neapolitan tradition of “suspended coffee” — when a customer in a cafe pays in advance for someone who can’t afford it.

The store usually doubles the amount donated and provides food that does not spoil fast — such as pasta and canned goods — to a local aid group that distributes it to the needy. Essentially, suspended shopping is an act of charity in which the donor doesn’t show off and the recipient doesn’t have to show gratitude.

Such acts of kindness are also seen in other forms. For instance, some small businesses that are on hold have made it possible for people to buy their services and products in advance and redeem them when they reopen. By doing this, customers are helping owners pay the rent or utility bills, while also staying in touch with their favorite shops.

Pay for something now and get it after lockdown: It’s one way to help shopkeepers from going bankrupt and, at the end of the virus tunnel, return to business — almost as usual.

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