A recent story about a New York cop buying a homeless man a pair of all-weather boots on a freezing night is the Internet’s latest story of the moment that has people buzzing — just in time for the holidays.
The New York Times reports Officer Lawrence DePrimo spent some time talking to a barefooted homeless man on 42nd Street before making the generous purchase.
“It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet. I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold,” The Times reported DiPrimo saying.
The story resonates for several reasons. During the holidays especially, people love feel-good stories about unsolicited acts of generosity and kindness. Add an orphan girl, a three-legged puppy and paid college tuition to this narrative and readers across the world would probably melt faster than Frosty taking a steam in Sedona, Ariz.
It’s also a nice reminder that beneath the badge and the kevlar, the men and women in blue have a heart and are moved to acts of compassion. (Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that on any given day a cop will do something nice for someone who has had their share of tough breaks.)
But maybe the biggest reason the story caught my attention and stuck with me is because it reminded me of a woman from a few years ago (notice I didn’t say lady).
Standing in line at a burger joint I assume she noticed I had gone back to my car to get some change for a panhandler in the parking lot near the entrance.
I guess I looked like I wanted to hear what she thought.
“You know he’s just going to buy drugs or alcohol with that money,” she said.
I’m a good son and I try to abide by the rules my mama taught me, namely don’t talk to strangers.
Or was it gas bags?
“You know you’re not doing him any favors,” she added.
It pained me to think of her poor children. Her husband.
The point wasn’t lost on me. I get what she was saying. In all likelihood the man had problems. Big ones. Something a few nickels, a buck or 40 ounces of beer wouldn’t fix.
But ignoring him, as she did when she left, wouldn’t help either nor would lecturing anyone about how they’re on the streets because they want to be.
However, if the booze or the food fills a void that needs filling, if only for a moment, and it only costs me one less super-sized heart attack burger or bladder buster latté, then so be it. Besides, it’s my money not yours, lady. Spend yours your way, I’ll spend it mine. In the end we leave it behind.
If only I had said that to her.