Thursday, November 29, 2012

NYPD Officer Lawrence Deprimo's lesson on giving.

This morning started like every other morning as I rushed to get ready for work with The Today Show blaring in the background.  I rarely even listen to their actual stories anymore, both because I simply don't have time and because the "news" is always the same: tragedy, death, violence, celebrity gossip.  Like so many people, I've become desensitized to most of it, not because I don't care, but because I just don't see solutions to the problems that so often generate the news stories themselves, and I find it all too overwhelming to dissect day after day with no hope in sight.

But this morning, as I dashed from washer to dryer with an armload of laundry and my whining puppy glued to my heels in search of his daily treat, my eyes caught an image on the television, of a cop kneeling beside what looked to be a homeless man. The homeless man, who sat hunched on a sidewalk with a small backpack beside him, was bare from foot to mid-calf. He wore neither socks nor shoes, only a thin jacket and what looked to be a lightweight pair of pants that fell to just below the knee. Unlike other similar images that often appear on the morning news, however, the cop in this scene was not standing over the homeless man with an air of authority. Instead, he was crouched beside the homeless man, looking directly at him, his hands folded, his left knee resting on the sidewalk mere inches from where the homeless man sat.

The picture of these two unlikely men, side by side on what I later found out was a New York City street, so surprised me that I dropped my laundry on the couch, tossed my dog his longed-for cookie, and tuned in to the story attached to the visual incongruity.  And I am glad I did.  Because had I prioritized the routine tasks and breathless hurry from room to room before flying out the door, I wouldn't have started my day learning that earlier this month, NYPD officer Lawrence Deprimo "bought a pair of boots for a barefooted homeless man."  Officer Deprimo hadn't stopped to charge the man with loitering or to tell him he had to leave the premises, nor had he simply looked the other way while working his beat that night.  In an act of pure compassion and a generosity for which there is no monetary compensation, Officer Deprimo knelt beside this man, asked him his shoe size, purchased the warmest boots (and socks) he could find, then gave them to a fellow human being.

As I think about giving, and about what it means to truly give, I am struck not only by Officer Deprimo's actions, but also by the countless opportunities like this that present themselves every single day.  While a new pair of boots for every human who needs them may not be within our own individual financial means, this story is - at least for me - about so much more than the pair of boots.  It is about one human being engaging with another.  It is about breaking down barriers of inequality on every level.  It is about asking someone what he needs and doing whatever possible to give him that.  More than anything, it is about two people connecting as people - not as police officer and homeless man, but as two men who both needed a pair of boots on a cold winter night.

I thought this might inspire some of you who are considering the 25 Days of Giving Challenge to think outside the box a little.  To imagine all that is possible in the world outside your front door.  Given the goal of spending no more than $25.00 throughout this Challenge, a new pair of boots may not  - and probably is not - feasible.  But are there other ways to help people get what they need?  Donations?  Fundraisers?  Even more important, how can we truly see those who may feel invisible in the world?  How can we let them know that they are not anonymous, that we care about them, that they matter, and that they are one of us?

Just some things to ponder as Day 1 of our Challenge approaches.

Til next time,

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