Updated: May 24
Meet Aleena Zafar. She's from Pakistan originally. After her family escaped a terrifying situation in their home country, they relocated to Canada, and she's been living there for the last eight years. One of her acts of intelligent generosity is now directly responsible for Starbucks handing out "free" coffee...which i just heard about perhaps a week ago.
Aleena and I met in Paris months ago for a handfull of moments, connecting largely on a mutual love for adventure and precision and Sufi practices and we've stayed in touch sporadically ever since. Checking in with each other from 'afar' amidst some of the recent collective shocks.
She's the manager of a cafe in Toronto near a hospital and a fire station and has been getting up at four AM everyday and back to sleep at midnight during those first waves of pandemic. One of the things she booted up is funding a gift card project out of her own pocket, for paramedics, firefighters, researchers, nurses and other first responders. After her initiative, other workers in the cafe also started chipping in portions of their own money for those giftcards.
Turns out Lori Digulla, current acting president of the Canada branch happened to stop by and was touched by this. So she put into motion one "free" cup of coffee for frontliners in all their locations across Canada, the US and the Middle East for the next week or so.
Honestly, I don't think this is enough to pay for some of the larger humanitarian crimes Starbucks has knowingly or unwittingly committed. Pretty sure they're sitting on a throne of coffeebeans, busteddreams and timesinks...but this is perhaps another conversation about purification of awareness, understanding available choices, how to rewire social caste systems, how to rewire capitalism, and social discrimination. Too much to get into for the moment, (though are we all getting into it or what!) and i don't see everything, but we do see everything.
So, they provide expensive low-grade stimulants, foodstuffs and sugarbombs to those who require it most. Now, don't get me wrong, i appreciate my stimulants and nutrients as well, just in the forms of green tea, great sex, well prepared meals, music making sessions, conversation, fiestas, exercise and the odd piece of nicotine gum. Tasty little bastards. Though I also remember working one season as a wilderness firefighter for the Forest Service in Washington State, and loving insta-coffee while out on fire deployment.
Having once lived in Seattle, Starbucks Central, for about a decade between my travels, I've watched their shops sprout up all over the place and wipe out fantastic local coffee houses to the detriment of culturally vivacious communites. I found it utterly surreal to be in a city like Tanger, Morocco, a city known for their fantastic coffee, and to find a line of people outside a Starbucks. I've found that surreal in almost every city I've been to, from Istanbul to New Orleans. Does that effect belong to Starbucks, habit, or to a collective lack of attention with where our currencies are put and the effects it can have on larger global social and economic eco-systems?
Just natural laws of unchecked expansion? Ye olde human greed?
I get it, we're all human and all doing the best we can...but I also understand that every house is essentially built by the sweat and hands of an international community and our collective and individual actions/choices.
More what I want to focus on is how a single act of abundance from one individual can snap into another and bring them into new horizons of possibility and action. Pandemic numbers have been showing us how disease goes viral, let's at the same time keep in heartmind that wellbeing goes viral too.
If fear and mimetic stress can ripple out into the human biosphere, so too can latent nobility, joy, and intelligent generosity.
Especially once all of this blows over, which it inevitably will, yet even more so as we all dive deeper into this and it continues to unfold.
How can we ever go back to the way things were knowing what we do now? Will this article shift anything in social awareness and action? Hasn't it all already been changed, forever now that we've seen the whales returning to ports in NYC and the dolphins to the canals in Venice and how clear our position on this planet in relation to nature is?
What happens from here...I suppose that depends on you, and on me.
On what we create and how we act now and after this.
With more time than ever on many of our hands, it's time to play and get crafty and be our silliest selves. Artsy. Musical. Gardeny. Sensual. To have gratitude for everything, but it's also time to get serious. Our world is going to keep going through changes and collective shocks in ways that will be difficult to predict, and which will test all of us. Don't forget.
Having traveled and lived in a handful of countries for long periods of time, I've experienced firsthand some of the difficulties of adapting to another culture, learning another language, dealing with architecture, moral systems, priorities, values, timelines and ways of being that weren't the ones I was brought up with. It takes enormous strength and patience to relocate and integrate into another part of the world.
So, I have a heap of respect and admiration for what Aleena and her family have done. It takes an incredible faith and belief in one's self and in life to do what they've done. She's a truly courageous woman, with an extraordinary heart, a damn sharp wit, and an incredible presence. Not to mention the fact that there have been some intense forms of suffering in her and her families life. The fact that one of her actions has rippled out the way it has is an inspiring lesson for us all.
When we met in Paris we said to each other- "Okay. There's roughly eight billion on this planet. Let's each change the lives of four billion."
We began long before we met. One moment at a time.
As quarantine sessions continue, and we all meditate on the values of home, these days are perfect moments for us to remember to expand our rings of pragmatic compassion, to work with limitation, to support our local businesses, artisans, artists, farmers, musicians and craftspeople, as well those abroad, to stay in touch and in tune, with the body and with each other, in Realtime...
However, let's not forget where the CEO's of Starbucks got their inspiration from...
a young Pakistani "immigrant" whose family became citizens in another country, which inadvertently caused a "free" coffee ripple across the world...because she is working in a café for her self, her family,