It all started when Rick Everett walked out of his home in Sydney and put up a sign on his kitchen window that read: "Free coffee to combat the virus."
In this July 25, 2020 photo provided by Rick Everett, a small table decorated with succulents sits below a window where Everett offers free coffee and conversation to friends and neighbors at his home in Sydney, Australia, during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: AP)
It was March, and the Australian acrobat had lost his job during the coronavirus pandemic. With more free time, he felt he could help out others in need. And he knew how to bake and cook after managing a chocolate and coffee shop and a pizza restaurant.
When he started, he said the window would be open whenever he was home. He stressed that it wasn't a coffee shop business; he just wanted to do something nice and meet his neighbors for a friendly chat during a difficult time.
"Think of it as popping over to your mates for a coffee only it is a friend you have not met yet," he wrote on a sign. "I am not selling anything. This is a gift and all it will cost you is a smile."
Soon his neighbors began to stop by, bringing him everything from cakes and loaves of bread to a six-pack of beer. Strangers began to recognize him on the street and wave hello.
"It's like I live in a small town again, and it's really beautiful," he said.
His menu includes cappuccino, chai latte and hot chocolate. Everett also offers baked goods to go along with the coffee.
"And what's even more beautiful is people ring my coffee bell just to talk," he said. "They don't even want a coffee! They don't want to take anything from me, but they're most happy to have a conversation with me, which is really nice."
Everett, an animal lover who adopted two birds and a cat, often asks people who visit his window about their pets to "get the ball rolling" in conversation. He tries to stay clear of negative subjects and remain positive.
"It's definitely a silver lining. ... All the things that I have been doing are things that I've always wanted to do. The difference is now I have an abundance of free time to do it," he said. "I've received as much back as I give. There's no doubt about that."
Everett has used savings to support himself, along with the Australian government's JobKeeper Payment program aimed at helping people affected by the pandemic's economic impact.
After the coffee and conversation window, he started a community herb garden, and then he bought a wooden display cabinet online, painted it bright red and filled it with food for people to take from a communal pantry. His latest project: a communal fridge full of meals outside his home.
"I don't see anything that I've been doing as much of a big deal. They're all things that are easy for me. They don't cost me a lot of money, but they can help in some tiny, little way," Everett said.
"If there are hundreds of thousands of these things going on, then the world changes. Nobody has to change the world alone. We do it together."