A random act of kindness as cop tends to homeless man on cold NY night
The ageing, homeless man sits hunched over his beggar’s cup, his ragged trousers and bare feet extended in front of him, the plastic bag holding his meagre belongings beside him.
A police officer kneels on the pavement. The two men are bathed in light from a shopfront window, a pair of new boots between them.
If you were looking for cruelty and acrimony this week, there was plenty of it. Palestinians and Israelis called each other “barbarians” and “terrorists” at the UN.
One Republican derided another as a “weasel” for appearing to concede ground in their budgetary war with the Obama administration.
Authorities deplored the torture and killing of six dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico; one dolphin was shot in the lung, another stabbed in the head with a screwdriver, a third had its jaw cut off.
Amid such reports, the image of Officer Larry DePrimo and the homeless man, whose identity remains unknown, became America’s 2012 Christmas Carol.
It went viral on the internet and was shown on every television network, after it was sent to the New York Police Department by a tourist from Arizona. You didn’t have to be a practising Christian to see an allusion to the Gospel in the photograph.
By yesterday, more than half a million people had “liked” it on the NYPD’s Facebook page; 186,000 shared it and 40,000 left comments, including one named Siobhán Heaney who wrote “Blessings and luck from Ireland”.
DePrimo was on duty in Times Square when he saw the man hobbling down 7th Avenue with blistered, naked feet on a frozen night in mid- November. The police officer initiated a conversation and later described the man as “the most polite gentleman I had met”.
DePrimo asked the man’s shoe size and dashed into Skechers, where night manager José Cano used his instore discount to sell a pair of all- weather boots and thermal socks to DePrimo at a reduced price of $75.
“Most of us are New Yorkers and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing, especially in this neighbourhood,” Cano told the New York Times.
Jennifer Foster, a dispatch manager at the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in Florence, Arizona for the past 17 years, was about to approach the homeless man, who by now was sitting on the pavement outside the shoe shop, when DePrimo came out and said, according to Foster: “I have these size 12 boots for you; they’re all- weather. Let’s put them on and take care of you.”