When a delivery driver arrived at Mary Johnson’s Bucks County home on Wednesday, she thought he’d come to drop off the flowers she’d ordered to brighten her space during this isolated time.
But Dan Owarzani had other plans.
Along with the flowers, the Castle Garden Center driver brought four bags of groceries and a few pre-made meals. He had never met his 74-year-old customer before, but when she was placing her order, she mentioned she hadn’t been out in weeks. Owarzani worried about her.
“That guy, he touched my heart so deeply,” Johnson said. “Words can’t express how I felt when he took those groceries out of the car.”
Owarzani, a 72-year-old retired postal worker and an Air Force veteran, summed up his motivation simply: He would want someone to do the same for him.
“I hope she likes it all,” he said.
“How could you not like it?” Johnson said. “For him to do that out of the kindness of his heart, I’ll never forget it.”
Hundreds of thousands of strangers have been touched by the good deed, too. Johnson’s daughter Maureen, a best-selling writer of young adult fiction, shared the story on Twitter, and the narrative quickly went viral. One user responded, “This gives me hope in humanity."
Steve and Lynn Castle, who have run the Lower Southampton garden center since 1982, said they didn’t want recognition but hoped the story of an employee’s kindness would inspire others.
“We can all play a small part in caring for our neighbors and making someone’s day brighter,” they wrote on Facebook. “We don’t do this for recognition and are overwhelmed with gratitude by your response. Please take this opportunity to pay it forward and not only support your local small businesses, but be kind to your neighbors."
When Johnson placed her order with Castle Garden Center on Tuesday, she mentioned that she had promised her daughter she’d stay home. To protect herself and her 76-year-old husband, Ray, Johnson said, she hasn’t been inside a store since March 18. Her only outings are walks to the mailbox and short weekly drives to keep the car running.
Owarzani, who was set to deliver the flowers the next day, heard about this conversation. Steve Castle told Owarzani to take her four homemade meals that local businessman Victor Corsino had prepared and donated.
Owarzani went about his day — finished work, went home, and ate dinner. But he couldn’t shake his concern for this woman he didn’t know. So he took a trip to the grocery store and filled his cart.
Around noon Wednesday, he showed up at Johnson’s home and placed the flowers on her porch as she had requested. As he stood back and she cracked open her door, he said, he told her, “Wait, I have something else for you.”
Wearing a mask, as he always does on deliveries now, he gave her the meals — “from a friend,” he told her — and then the groceries.
“I was just bowled over,” said Johnson. She offered Owarzani money for the food. He refused.
She promised to pay it forward, she said, and make a donation in his name to the food pantry at her church, Trinity Episcopal in Trenton. A retired nurse who works at that food pantry, Johnson said she’s felt helpless hearing about the struggles of health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
She hopes anyone who hears about Owarzani’s kindness is inspired to do something nice for someone else.
In his Feasterville home that night, Owarzani said a quiet prayer for Johnson, having no idea the story of his generosity was already being shared across the country. Like Johnson, he hopes it moves people to help others.
Do “anything to make someone smile," he said. “Especially today. People need that."
“Try to smile, and we’ll get through this.”