February 17, 2013

Random acts of kindness

Locals share stories of paying it forward


---- — PLATTSBURGH — On a cold winter day during the 2012 holiday season, a man stopped into the Koffee Kat in Plattsburgh for a cup of joe.

The shop’s owner, Patty Waldron, recalled thinking the man, who was not a regular customer, appeared to be down on his luck and in need of a place to keep warm.

He ordered a coffee, Waldron said, but when it came time to pay for it, the man indicated he was 50 cents short, so Koffee Kat barista Jason Ormsby reached into his tip jar and took out the money needed to cover the cost of the beverage.

Before leaving the shop, the man slipped $100 into Ormsby’s tip jar.

Not long after, the same man returned to the shop for another cup of coffee, this time tipping Ormsby $200.

“I was just, like, flabbergasted,” said the barista, who used some of the stranger’s unexpected gift to finish his Christmas shopping.

Waldron suspects that the man was conducting an experiment of sorts to see who would show kindness to someone seemingly in need; perhaps he rewarded Ormsby for not hesitating to chip in for a warm beverage for a stranger.

“He was trying to see who was naughty or nice,” Waldron said.


Joshua Morgan of Plattsburgh also likes to pay it forward by rewarding service-industry employees for their work.

“I always tip well,” Morgan said. “I know how hard it is for people in that line of work. They live off their tips.”

In fact, it seems area residents are no strangers to random acts of kindness, which, Waldron said, she witnesses more often than one may think.

For example, she said, during a recent storm, county employees were outside the Koffee Kat working in the cold snow, when a woman came into the shop and handed Waldron $25. She told Waldron to use the money to buy coffee for each of the workers.

On another occasion, a different woman came into the Koffee Kat and gave Waldron $10, saying she wished to pay for coffee for the next few customers who stopped in. When the customers were told that a stranger had already paid their tabs, many of them gave Waldron more money to keep the generosity going.

“It went on all day long,” she said.

But the Koffee Kat is just one of many locations where such acts of generosity have taken place.

Marie Navarro of Plattsburgh said more than once she has gone to Dunkin Donuts and upon attempting to pay for her order, has been told that her bill has already been covered by a previous patron.

“It makes you feel good,” Navarro said.


And Jenna Lieberman, an employee of Plattsburgh’s Smooth Moves, said she has observed customers help one another free vehicles from the shop’s parking lot that have become stuck in snow.

Lieberman also recalls a time she unknowingly dropped her wallet inside Price Chopper only to have a stranger pick it up and chase her down outside the grocery store to return it.

When events like that occur, she said, it feels “like there’s still hope in the world for nice people. Chivalry is not dead yet.”

Another Plattsburgh resident, Tracie Guzzio still remembers the man who stopped on the side of a road to help her when she ran out of gas.

She was very young, she said, and had probably only driven her car a couple of times when the engine locked up for lack of fuel.

Guzzio recalls crying on the side of the busy road until the man pulled up and escorted her to and from the gas station.

“I felt incredibly lucky,” she said.

Guzzio wondered if perhaps the man stopped to help her because he, too, had once failed to stop for gas in time and could empathize with her lack of pre-planning.

“Maybe he saw something of himself in that situation,” she said.


Now a mother, Guzzio said she’s noticed that her 9-year-old daughter is very quick to want to help a person or animal in need, whether it’s a lost puppy, a person who looks upset or someone asking for money.

“It’s kind of both heartening and disheartening at the same time,” she said.

Guzzio explained that while she appreciates her daughter’s kind and open heart and does not want to discourage her, she also wants her child to be aware of her own safety and have a healthy level of caution toward strangers.

“That’s probably the hardest thing as a mother,” she said.

Still, Waldron noted, while it’s easy to find fault in today’s world, she feels most people ultimately want to make others happy.

And when she witnesses the kindness of others, Waldron said, “I immediately want to keep it going ... I just think it brings back the awareness.”

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