Nothing In Return


Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Officer100-jpg

Most of us have heard the viral news story out of New York City by now, where the well-meaning Officer Larry Deprimo gave a pair of $100 boots to a homeless man, Jeffrey Hillman, without any footwear. Plenty have judged the motives of both parties involved, some have sneered, and Hillman himself has demanded “a piece of the pie” for his unexpected notoriety (he was later reported to have either sold or hidden the boots).  Personally I was just glad to see a bit of good news out of the Big Apple for a change. When we read so many stories about innocent bystanders shot, police brutality, and fatal cases of mistaken identity, this is the kind of story we need.

Had I been in Officer Deprimo’s shoes (no pun intended) I think I’d have done the same thing. Maybe I couldn’t afford a pair of $100 boots but a $10 pair beats going barefoot on cold city streets. I have half a dozen pairs of good shoes in my closet, not to mention clean clothes and a warm coat. By comparison to a vast majority of the world’s population I am dazzlingly wealthy. And that’s just the point: so many of us can afford to give to help those in need, but we’d rather have the latest iPhone or fashion or automobile instead.

I have seen many awful comments on message boards and in the blogosphere surrounding this story. Some have said that Deprimo simply wasted his money. Others have suggested that Hillman and many thousands of others like him simply “use the system” to get money from generous strangers. What these people don’t stop to consider is that, in this economy, many of them are just one paycheck or lost job away from being in Hillman’s shoes (again, perhaps a bad choice of pun.) Were they in a similar situation perhaps they would not be as condescending. How many of these sneering Middle American types would last even a day in freezing concrete wastelands with no shelter, no food, no friends, and no hope?

While I’m certainly not rich myself, I’ve always tried to be as compassionate and generous as I can toward those not as fortunate as I’ve been. Of course I can’t help everyone, but I try to do a few random acts of Christmas kindness each year (here’s a list of suggestions.) I’m not doing these acts because I think they will get me into heaven, or earn me some extra karmic points, or even to stroke my own ego. I do them because they genuinely help someone in need. That’s a feeling no amount of money can ever buy.

Just today I was approached by a lady in the Target parking lot as I left. She looked tired and thin and scared, and I wondered what she might want. She went on to explain that she was a single mom, out of work, trying to raise money to fill her child’s prescription, and that she had been ridiculed and cursed at by several others. Maybe I am hopelessly naive and sentimental, but I gave her a $10 check on the spot. Maybe she is actually a great con artist and will be buying alcohol or drugs with that money. Maybe it was all a lie. In the end, I don’t care. I gave her some money because that’s what my conscience told me to do. What she does with it is up to her…and I expect nothing in return. I suspect Larry Deprimo expected nothing in return, either.

(As this great blogger proves, RACK’s don’t have to cost a penny. Sometimes the gift of time or compassion is the greatest gift.)

How do you feel about the story out of New York? What is the meaning of giving to you?

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on December 8, 2012.

5 Responses to “Nothing In Return”

  1. I have met with both sides of the fence; the person in actual need and the con artist. In both cases I ended up giving them money. The second time around with the con artist they changed their story around completely, I just kept walking. I don’t mind helping someone if I think they need the actual help.

  2. I think that there are many in need. This is a great reminder Heather!

  3. I think in situations like the one with the Heretic (above), it makes sense not to give the person money again, but I think far too many people try to determine how money they give a person will be spent. In the end, it’s impossible (or nearly so) to put everyone to trial who claims to have a need. I would rather give $10 to a person who is deceiving me than risk turning my nose up at someone with genuine need.

  4. […] it is an exploration of misanthropy in society. Remember how, a few days ago, I wrote a nice little touchy-feely piece about altruism and the values of giving to others freely? Well, the lady whom I gave to burned me […]

  5. […] couple weeks ago, you may remember me writing about a would-be attempt to make Christmas merrier for a stranger in need. It turned into a case of […]

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