mande wilkesBy Mande Wilkes  ||  I can’t stand coffee. The taste, the smell, the vaguely Italian size designations, the way people fiend for it like dope, the fact that it stains, the fact that it can burn, the fact that little poor kids pick it from fields for a penny a day. Coffee sucks, is what.

Which is all to say that I’m more than a little biased on the topic to follow.

But still, even to all you coffee enthusiasts, does not it shock the conscience, this “pay it forward” shtick going on at Starbucks stores around the country?

In case you haven’t heard…

A few days ago, in Florida, no less than 378 people paid for the coffee order of the car behind them in line.  After almost 11 hours, finally someone normal appeared in line and refused to carry on with the foolishness.

Naturally this story has been paraded about by the media, as they breathlessly proclaim it as so many “acts of kindness.” And also, the media has stuck their tongue out at the lone rational human being who didn’t care to pay for a random person’s caramel macchiato.

Seriously, the story has leapfrogged from a simple blurb on a slow news day to a major national headline, taking on in the process a political identity of its own. To hear the media tell it, the story is evidence at last of, if not compassion, then at least a measure of clemency.

If I were writing for FOX News instead of FITS News, I might call them socialists, these people who paid for a stranger’s cup of coffee. But I probably hate the misuse of that term as much as I hate coffee itself, so what I’ll call it instead of “socialist” is … stupid.

It’s stupid to pay for a stranger’s grande venti latte (or WTF-ever you call it). It’s not “kind” or “benevolent.” It’s not even cute. And a full 378 people in a row “paid it forward” (or backward, it we’re being strictly literal here), thinking I can only assume that they were “making someone’s day.”

(I feel compelled to reiterate that this happened in Florida, in August! Just how hot and humid does it have to be for you people to press pause on your coffee addiction?)

Anyway, I’m hardly opposed to actual acts of random kindness. In fact it’s kind of a hassle to be the car behind me in any line, because I always – always – give money to panhandlers. For all I know, some of them use the money at Starbucks, but something tells me that’s rarely the case.

You know what’d be a cool experiment? To panhandle at a Starbucks drive-though during one of these epic sprees of stupidity. Wonder how that would go …

So strange it is that in an era when people are arguably stingier than ever, so many are also mindlessly magnanimous – but only, it seems, when the beneficiary is a person similarly situated in life. And it’s not news that convenience is king, and what’s more convenient than “helping out” whoever happens to be in the car right behind you?

I was half-joking when I wrote the bit about “socialism,” but genuinely I do wonder at the origin of this behavior – whether a society increasingly focused on the whole instead of the parts contributes to a mindset of blind, automated benevolence.  And if it does, what might be the consequences? Seems to me that we’re losing sight of what it means to be in need, and what it looks like to be in a position to assist.

Mande Wilkes is a wife, mother, businesswoman, author, etc. residing on the South Carolina coast with her family.  You can read more of her work in The (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Sun News.