• Elizabeth Cornwall

Suisse Mocha, the Plague, and Don't Forget the Homeless

When I was in graduate school and trying to translate the 14th century letters of Giovanni Colombini, I drank a lot of Suisse Mocha. This was back in the 1980s so I'd like to say I was an early coffee snob but my ever-increasing consumption was mostly a form of avoidance of the difference between 14th century Italian word usage and modern-day. I wish I had had the embroidery habit to keep my hands busy because I gained weight on a day-long diet of this sugary drink.

But the important thing to know about Giovanni Colombini is that he ministered to a lot of homeless people and people deeply affected by the Black Plague. One half to one third of Italians died then. It had an all-consuming effect on the survivors. He was the proverbial rich young many who gave away everything.

My brother Kerry was an early supporter of my historical studies and everything I did, despite the fact that it was so different from my family's expectations and cultural experiences. There I was, slurping copious amounts of Suisse Mocha and reading scholarly articles in French, German, and Italian and all certain people could say was, "You'll never make a living with a master's degree in history."

After my brother went missing and in the years and decades following, I developed a certain fondness for the homeless, hoping upon hope that Kerry was homeless and not dead and simply choosing to stay away. I understood the need the stay away, as well but not from the homeless. I imagined someone somewhere else was serving my brother like I was doing. So I drank a lot of International Coffee and served the poor when I could.

During these times of plague and stockpiling, don't forget to buy bottled water and easily bagged food and give it to homeless because they can't stockpile. They can't horde toilet paper. They are someone else's brother but really they all are our brothers and sisters.

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