NYPD’s Lawrence DePrimo: Good Intentions, Not Good Results

December 6, 2012 9:10 pm 2 comments

New York City police officer Lawrence DePrimo gives a pair of boots to a homeless man.

I am sure that most feel a sense of warmth and compassion deep down, after reading the very moving recent story, and seeing the accompanying picture, of a police officer handing a pair of boots to a homeless and barefoot man.

And we should. There is nothing more meaningful and inspiring than seeing an act of true goodness being done by someone, when it is obviously for no reward. (It’s not like the police officer commissioned a photographer to take that somewhat unclear picture!)

So I am sure that most also share with me a sense of surprise and heartache to see this update on the story from the New York Times, of the same homeless man sans shoes once again.

It is truly tragic that this man has fallen on such hard times, especially as it is reported that he is a US army veteran. Yet this story highlights precisely why it is so hard to care for such a person, as I will point out.

The following is in no way meant as a criticism of the beautiful kind act of NYPD officer Lawrence DePrimo. Nor is it a judgment of the unfortunate homeless man Jeffrey Hillman. Rather it is meant to highlight that which we all ought to think about.

There are four possible reasons that I can think of, as to why this man is no longer wearing his new boots.

First, the man’s own admission. Being that these boots are relatively valuable ($100), his ownership of them puts his life in danger. In the dark alleys of homeless New York, how is a man to defend himself against robbery of his valuable possessions? So, in his words, he had no choice but to hide them!

Second, he sold them. Why would a homeless freezing man, sell the only source of warmth for his freezing toes?
It is possible that he was so hungry that he had no choice. Or it may be that he had some other very pressing need that he felt was more important than avoiding getting frostbitten.

Third, possibly he is unwell, emotionally and/or mentally. Perhaps for him being homeless and cold is the only lifestyle that he is ‘comfortable’ with. And being wedded to the life of homelessness and cold he did the “irrational”. Unfortunately there are too many cases of individuals who were helped to come in from the cold and fill their vacant stomachs, set up with a job etc. only to revert back to their former helpless lives in a very short time.

And finally, He may be fully aware of his surroundings. If you notice he is panhandling outside a shoe shop. How much more effective are his collection efforts, when he forces you to contrast his barefoot homelessness, with your warm feet? Especially when you may very well have just bought yourself a fourth pair, or a fourteenth pair; which for the most part will spend its time in the closet.

Either way, when walking past such an individual who is hurting, which decent fellow wouldn’t want to help him? So how is one to effectively help this man?

This brings to mind an important teaching of the Kabbalah. There are different sides to kindness. There is the kindness that we all share. That is the desire to give to others. Whether gifts of friendship, presents to relatives, or even strangers. This builds relationships and is habitual kindness.

Then there is a more advanced level of kindness – compassion. To give to someone who is in need, who hasn’t necessarily done anything to deserve your friendship or kindness. This is the admirable compassion of that police officer.

But both kindness and compassion may sometimes be lacking. It can be misguided and ineffective, as we have seen above. What we need here is a level of kindness that is deeper still. Not to give what I need or want to give, nor to give how and to whom I want to give; but to give that which the other needs to receive.

If the fellow is correct that the new pair of boots became a magnet to thieves. Then actually by giving him a nice pair of new boots one is doing him a disservice. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, a second-hand pair that perhaps even had a hole or two, would be so much more suitable.

If the real story here is that this man is mentally unwell, then what is really called for is some tough love (as difficult as that may be to carry out). This man may need medical help, perhaps some therapy or medication from a professional therapist or psychiatrist. No matter how much assistance he receives with his external symptoms, little will be achieved. Deep love, which in this case would be tough love, would demand leading him to get real help, even if that is not what he says he wants.

This takes thought. This takes understanding. This takes a deeper approach to kindness, compassion and love. Not just to act on our natural instincts, but to be guided by the mind, to assess the appropriate kind of kindness needed by each individual person and situation.

It may be hard mental and emotional work, but the dividends are worth it. This type of love is so much more effective.

So the next time you have an opportunity to give, think about this:

You can give with your hand.
You can give from your heart.

But even better would be, to give using your mind.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.