A generous gesture I couldn’t refuse

Post by Jason Plotkin

He handed me his Cover.

I called it a hat.

“It’s not a hat. The Army wears hats. The Marines wear Covers.” said Nathan Fornwalt, a Springettsbury Township resident who I had just met 20 minutes earlier.

He showed me his name, written in two places of the bush Cover.

“Take it.” He said, putting it in my hands. I looked it over and attempted to give it back.

“No, take it. I want you to have it.”

Like I said, I just met Fornwalt about 20 minutes earlier when I noticed the military-style snowman in his front yard as I was driving by. I stopped in to ask him about it and he gave me permission to photograph him with it and do a video. You can see them below.

Former marine Nathan Fornwalt poses with his “Wounded Veteran Snowman” he created in the front yard of his Springettbury Townhip home following Wednesday evening’s snow. Fornwalt placed some of his own medals, including his Purple Heart on the creation in the hopes to entertain people and hope they appreciate what the military does.


For 20 years since I became a journalist, I have politely turned away and turned down a variety of generous gifts. From homemade jam made by the most adorable elderly women to t-shirts, books and even flowers. To keep a clean ethical line where I don’t put anyone, including myself, in a uncomfortable position, I have politely refused many gifts over the years. And during those occasions, if someone were to mail me something, I still couldn’t keep it. The York Daily Record’s policy is to auction off such gifts and give the money to charity.

I was confused by Fornwalt’s gesture. Like I said earlier, we just met.

I politely told him that I couldn’t accept his Cover, but thanked him anyway.

“Please,” he said “I have so many of them. I want you to have it.”

I looked at him in the eyes and asked, “Why are you doing this? We just met. Why would you give me your Cover?”

He looked at me and talked about being raised as a decent gentleman who holds the door for women and believes in doing kind gestures.

Something in his eyes told me he wasn’t going to take “No” for an answer. And to be honest, I was taken aback. For some reason I didn’t want to say no.

So I didn’t say “No.” I said “Thank you.”

For the first time in 20 years, I wanted to keep something someone gave me. I went back to the office and talked to one of my editors and explained the situation. I asked if I could keep the Cover on my desk. He said it was ok. Here it is:

Maybe it was just me being polite.

Maybe it was something about the way he carried himself.

Maybe it was that damn snowman.

But I took the hat.

I’m sorry. I mean the Cover. He was a Marine after all.

 

Read more about the Marine and his snowman

 

2 Responses to A generous gesture I couldn’t refuse

  1. Pingback: Journalism ethics don’t (always) require us to be assholes « The Buttry Diary

  2. Pingback: When Should Journalists Accept Gifts? | The Penn Ave Post

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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but there is often more to say about a great photograph. The York Daily Record's award-winning visual staff offers a peek behind the lens and into the process of capturing, editing and publishing their most interesting photographs, video stories and more.
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