(Pay it Forward vs. Collective Negativity)
The theme for this quarter’s BeZine issue is “A Life of the Spirit: Fuel For Change”.
I have felt compelled to blog about something that’s been bothering me, in the hopes that it might resonate with even one other person. I’m sure it will. There was a story some years ago about an NYPD Police Officer who used his own money to buy boots for a homeless man he encountered on his beat on a bitterly cold winter night. You may have seen/read it. Like so many others, I was touched at the kindness and compassion of the human heart and it renewed my hope in humanity once again. 🙂 So that’s all well and good, and ties in nicely with the spirit of Christmas and the general “Good Will toward Men” sentiment. Great!
A couple of days later, there was a follow-up story which let people know that the homeless man was once again without the socks and boots that the cop so generously had given him.
The $100 pair of boots that Officer DePrimo had bought for him at a Skechers store on Nov. 14 were nowhere to be seen. “Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Mr. Hillman said in an interview on Broadway in the 70s. “I could lose my life.”
Mr. Hillman, 54, was by turns aggrieved, grateful and taken aback by all the attention that had come his way—even as he struggled to figure out what to do about it. “I was put on YouTube, I was put on everything without permission. What do I get?” he said. “This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.” He did not recall the photo being taken but remembered well the gift from Officer DePrimo. “I appreciate what the officer did, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I wish there were more people like him in the world.”
At another point he said: “I want to thank everyone that got onto this thing. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. It meant a lot to me. And to the officer, first and foremost.” —New York Times, 12/03/2012
So I looked at the comments section (probably a mistake, but force of habit). I was appalled at how many people were condemning Mr. Hillman for getting rid of the boots he had been given and laughing at the cop for being ‘naive.’ All I could think of was the vast difference in people cheering compassion and then turning that act of generosity into judgement against both the giver and the person who had received it.
No, it doesn’t take away from the cop’s good intentions. But I wanted to ask each and every person commenting with things like “You know he sold them for money for drugs or booze” or “The cop should have known he would just sell them. Why waste that kind of money?” etc. etc.—I wanted to ask them, “How do YOU know and who are YOU to judge?!”
None of us have walked in Mr. Hillman’s boots. We don’t know his story, we don’t know what demons he battles. And in the end, you know what? It doesn’t matter, because when you take it upon yourself to point fingers and judge someone else, just remember there are three fingers pointing back at YOU.
Now…the main reason I’m writing this is because it’s damned cold outside tonight. Twenty-seven degrees is the current temp and it’s not done dropping yet. Do any of you know of a homeless person who could use a blanket? How about thermal packs for their hands/feet? How about the notion of “Pay it Forward”?
If we ALL just helped three people this winter, REALLY helped them, and then those three people help three others…it’s the power of 1 + 1 into infinity. We could really change the world and make a difference in so many lives. Please consider doing just ONE random act of kindness for someone who desperately needs it this season, or every day, if you’re of a mind to! You see…kindness is a much better way to make the world a better place than passing judgement on others. Kindness battles the collective negativity of judgement. The world is cold and dark enough as it is. How about we all make it just a little bit brighter? 🙂
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