November 30, 2012

It's bigger than a pair of boots

There's a lot of buzz going around on the inter-webs about the New York City cop who purchased a pair of winter boots for a homeless man in Union Square some ten days ago. Coming from a family of cops and having worked with the poor and homeless for over a decade I have to say I was truly touched by this story.

Since then there have been some interesting discussions that have come up as a result that I thought I'd touch on one or two of them here on the blog.

It's been rumored  he'd (the homeless man ) had been seen around shoe-less in various places and might have been selling the boots for cash.

Let me ask you this?

Does what a homeless person does with your donation affect whether you give or how much you give?

[If you were sure that your money was going to food or shelter rather than something less necessary would you be more likely to give a homeless person money or do you give regardless?]

Givetransitive verb

  1. to make a present of 
  2. to grant or bestow by formal action 
  3. to put into the possession of another for his or her use

I can admit freely here on my own blog that before my decades long work with the Daughters Of Charity I used to think the former rather then the later. Being around these wonderfully holy women changed me on the inside. They showed me by their example how to open my heart to the poor and how judging them wasn't my opinion of them but a reflection of me. 

As to the subject of the selling of the boots by the homeless man. Is this true? I don't know. Does this matter? I'll tell you what I think matters. What matters here is that we witnessed a true act of human kindness. Don't you wish we'd see more of this sort of thin in our communities and in our country as a whole?

It seems to me judging the recipient of this generosity is nothing more than a reflection of those who are doing the judging and it does nothing more than take our eyes away from what is much bigger than a pair of boots-  a very decent act.


  1. I thought the kindness of the cop was very inspiring, but I would be the one that might be judging the recipient and base my giving on what they might do with it, especially cash. (just being honest)

  2. I love your thoughts on this. I think ppl are I'm shock because when they usually deal with cops, they are in trouble or broke the law.

    1. Shame really you'd think people would give him the benefit of the doubt.

  3. I like what amoryg said in their comment; my dealings with cops have not been pleasant ones (because of son's wild teenage years) so to have a cop be compassionate like this, that was a nice thing to see. (don't get me wrong, son deserved everything that happened to him because of his less than ideal choices, but some of the cops we dealt with were just jerks, sorry to say) (can you tell I'm a bit sensitive about this?)

    Anyway, back to your original blog post I totally agree with you. What mattered was the police man did a compassionate kind thing. If the recipient chose to do something else with the gift then the original intention of the police man, that is okay because it was a gift given with no strings attached so to speak.

    When we went to feed the homeless last month, one of the ladies that was with our group commented one time they had given some stuff to someone that they saw later selling it to other homeless people. She was a bit inflamed about it, but the organizers of the event said "its okay, its between her and God, we did what we thought God wants us to do" So I feel about the same with this guy. Its between him and God with what he did with the shoes if he sold them or not.


  4. Jen, I totally agree! I've always had a heart for the poor and homeless but worried too much about what others thought when seeing me stop and give them some money, etc. But our pastor had a great sermon on this last year and it boiled down to the point you made. We are called to care for them. What they choose to do with the resources given is not our choice. The bible doesn't say to only give to those who will use it wisely, but to give.

    Thanks for a great post!

  5. A very kind act,maybe the homeless man had his boots stolen,I can see that wearing brand new boots on the streets would gain attention from others. There was a lot in the newspapers here about giving money to beggars would mean they bought drink or drugs with it but I always thought ,well if a beer gets them through the day who am I to judge. My daughter buys them coffee and a sandwich rather than give them money but she's a social worker so maybe knows best. I have never seen so many homeless people in my life than when we went to Santa Monica I couldn't believe the numbers on the streets, you never see that here.

  6. Dangit I lost my first meaningful comment. Don't you hate it when that happens? Anyway, what I said was.... now its sounding less sensitive - I hadn't heard the follow up but I think my feelings would have been hurt to know that the guy sold the boots that I gave him. However, I understand that he was fine without shoes and you can't live without food. I would hope that is what he used the money for. I have given fast food breakfast to those guys holding 'will work for food' signs. I've never given money outright to the homeless.

  7. great story----it is always a hot you give? do you walk on by???

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. I agree with you, Jen. Who are we to judge? I've worked in and around the social services field long enough to know that we often don't know the whole story. Even if he did sell the boots, what if he used the money to buy something he needed even more? We just don't know.

  9. I remember on time being in the back of a church with my crying baby when an obvious homeless man walked in. The priest walked by and he asked him for money. the priest reached in his pocket and gave him all he had. no questions asked. I thought about that many I give and don't ask.

    1. Our church used to keep a few bottles of un-blessed wine in the sacristy which were always on hand and unlocked. Once during mass a homeless man came in and stole the wine so father told the usher to lock the door so he couldn't take the wine.

      The next Sunday and we have a relatively small parish about 500 families so we all pretty much know each other. Anyway a man who we believed to be homeless presented himself for communion first taking the host then when he went to take the wine and he guzzled the entire cup.

      Father didn't even blink. I've often wondered if he did or said anything to the man afterwards but never asked!

  10. ABsolutely. Who knows what this man is going to do with the boots. Stigma is alive and well and it's awful. It's awful that we judge. What if he wanted money for food?

  11. Well, I believe that once you give someone something it theirs to do with what ever they wish to. Giving makes me feel good inside and out. So, this is something I will never stop doing. However, if know off hand that my gift to you is being wasted, I'll still give to you, but not as much. I do believe in this case having the money was more important than the shoes. So, he didn't waste the gift. Instead, he recycled it for what he really needed.

    1. Most reasonable people feel the same way you do. Giving is giving end of story. By the time they get finished with this poor homeless guy and this pair of boots it's gonna be a movie of the week!!

  12. Judging?

    What are people judging? did i miss something?

    That police officer inspired all of us.

    This is what we should ALL be doing!



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