As a young girl, I had visited New York City many times with my grandparents, and was in too much awe of the sights to notice anything but the hustle and bustle of the city. When I first moved to the city on my own and actually saw the number of homeless, I was shocked. Whenever the weather would turn bitter cold, I thought of these nameless, faceless souls and their struggle to keep warm. Many years after I first moved to the city, I noticed a man in a wheelchair who was on the same corner every day. I would see him each morning on my way to work, and eventually we began to exchange hellos. Over time, I would buy him a cup of coffee or cigarettes. He would share with me stories about his troubled youth. He was in a wheelchair because as a teen, he broke both of his legs while running away from the police. Even though he had done his time, he was still paying for his troubled youth as an adult. When I moved out of that neighborhood, I lost contact with the man on the corner.
Charitable organizations usually depend on holiday donations, just as retail stores depend on holiday sales. As many of us do, I find myself contributing more at this time of year to those in need. While I know that my contributions do make a difference, I don’t get to see the individual impact my donation makes. I did when I would give the man on the corner a cup of coffee or a few dollars.
This week, I was reminded that charity is not about seeing the impact, but knowing that the good deed has helped someone. NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo has become a viral sensation, and a reminder of the good in all of us. On November 14th, Officer DePrimo spotted a homeless man in Times Square sitting on the sidewalk with bare feet. The temperature was in the high 30’s that evening. Most of you know by now that the young officer purchased a pair of boots and socks for the man, and even offered to buy him a meal. Although the offer of a hot meal was turned down, the socks and boots were greatly appreciated. As a reminder to himself of how tough other people’s lives are, Officer DePrimo keeps the receipt for the socks and boots inside his bulletproof vest. In two weeks, the original Facebook post has over 518,000 Likes, 98,000 shares and 40,000 comments. Videos and pictures on the web that go viral are usually funny or frivolous. This random act of kindness made me think of how we are all deserving of love and respect even when we fall on hard times.
As I count my blessings this holiday season, I am including Officer Larry DePrimo and Jennifer Foster, who took the picture and posted it. These two strangers have renewed my faith in my fellow man. They are a reminder that although there are many people who have tough lives, there are just as many people who are there, every day, giving just a little bit of kindness and generosity to those in need. ‘Tis the season…