Random acts of kindness a way of life around Cochrane

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, April 14, 2010

It was another typical Thursday in and around Cochrane. Like every other day of the week, folks were going out of their way to be just plain nice to each other.

It started out for my wife and me when we opened our front door that morning and gasped.

Before I tell what we found, however, let me describe what happened in the lives of three of our coffee companions that same day.

Actually, it began the previous day for Cindy Mjolsness.

Cindy is proprietor of The Petal Pusher flower shop, located half-way along the strip of stores between Cochrane Safeway and Java Jamboree coffee shop. When we dropped into her shop last Wednesday, she had an exciting idea she needed some help with.

An overnight guest at her home, before departing, had left her an envelope of money to provide a gift of flowers for some unsuspecting person. Cindy added some of her own money and decided to bless two folks with a floral surprise. One of them was Kate Millar.

Kate had just returned from a week of volunteering in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Her daughter, Tamara Palinka, a volunteer there for two-and-a-half months now, has been sharing her experiences in a series of articles published in the Cochrane Eagle.

Cindy wondered if we knew how to contact Kate.

We did, and gave her Kate’s phone number.

When we visited the flower shop a couple of days later, Cindy couldn’t wait to tell us the rest of the story.

She had indeed contacted Kate that Thursday afternoon, and when Kate came by to pick up her floral gift, she had an amazing story of her own to tell Cindy.

Earlier that day Kate was paying the clerk for her coffee at the Tim Hortons drive-through window and, seeing another car lined up behind her, told the clerk she’d pay for the other car’s order, too. She didn’t know the driver, but figured it would just be something nice to do.

As an aside, Kate has a reputation for doing spur-of-the-moment things like that. There was that time a while back, for instance, when again at Tim Hortons Kate purchased a surprise coffee for the car behind her and caused a bit of chain reaction.

As the clerk later told Kate, the stunned driver told the clerk he’d pick up the tab for the car behind him – only to discover it was a sizable amount, since the car behind him was filled with hungry teenagers. He paid anyhow. The teenagers’ car, in turn, paid for the car behind them, and on it went; the clerk wasn’t sure how many cars got into the spirit of that day’s daisy chain of goodness, each driver paying for the next car’s order.

Back to the flower shop now, Cindy’s story didn’t end with Kate picking up her surprise order.

That same afternoon, after locking up the shop for the day, Cindy went home and there, at her doorstep, were three mysterious pots of pansies. An accompanying note said something like, “These are for you, just because you’re always doing such nice things for everybody else.” The note was not signed.

She later managed to find out the pansies were from SuAnn Poettcker, one of her staff. SuAnn subsequently told me Cindy’s one of the best bosses she’s ever worked for and she wanted to show her appreciation.

And besides, SuAnn added, Cindy is a perennial source of thoughtful gestures herself, sometimes even giving a flower to young children she sees pausing in front of her shop window.

But SuAnn’s own story didn’t stop with placing her gift at Cindy’s doorstep. No, there’s more – much more! After dropping off the pansies, SuAnn popped into one of her favourite coffee shops, Guy’s Bakery. But before she could even place her order, the clerk at the counter handed her a cup of hot brew and said, “The tea’s on us today!”

This outbreak of delightful surprises seemed to have no end last Thursday.

But then, I should have realized it was going to be that kind of day here in the Bow River valley the moment I opened our front door that morning to begin my coffee shop rounds.

There, sandwiched between our front doors, was a brightly coloured shopping bag filled with branches of pussy willows. They were perfect in every way. Only problem was there was no note to say who put them there.

We had our suspicions, but it was only on Saturday that we knew for sure. Our Ghost Lake Village coffee companion Mitzi Watts, knowing how much we enjoy those fluffy harbingers of springtime, had snuck by our place and slipped the pussy willows between our doors before we were even up and around.

Yes, that’s our community for you: a place where random acts of kindness flow like the Bow. Aren’t you glad you live here?

© 2010 Warren Harbeck

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