Remember the NYC cop who bought the homeless man a pair of $100 boots? Well, he’s back on the street. Barefoot. That’s right. A New York Times reporter found him wandering the streets of Manhattan on Sunday night. With no shoes!
It was a chilly night on November 14 when officer Larry DePrimo was walking his beat and saw the homeless man, now identified as Jeffery Hillman, and felt sorry for him. Unbeknown to both men an Arizona tourist, Jennifer Foster, witnessed this act of kindness and took a picture. She posted it on the NYPD’s Facebook page. And as we say today, “it went viral”!
I saw DePrimo and Foster interviewed on the Today show. Both seemed to be genuinely nice people. While DePrimo appeared embarrassed by all the attention, he said, “The first thing I thought was that this is absolutely unacceptable. I knew I had to help him….I really didn’t think about the money.”
Now the Times reporter discovered Hillman had hidden the boots because he feared for his life. He said,“They are worth of a lot of money.” And while he expressed appreciation for DePrimo’s generosity he said that the photo was snapped and published without his permission. Hillman said that he wanted a “piece of the pie.” Really?
Well, it gets better! Turns out that Hillman is not homeless after all. The Daily News reports that “for the past year, Jeffrey Hillman has had an apartment in the Bronx paid for through a combination of federal Section 8 rent vouchers and Social Security disability and veterans benefits.”
However, he refuses to live there. Instead Hillman chooses to wander the streets of Gotham, cold and barefoot as he panhandles from soft-hearted folks like Officer DePrimo. So much for the holiday feel-good story.
All of this reminds me that it is hard to help some people.
The Bible tells us to work so that we can have funds to help those in need (Eph. 4:28). As opportunities arise we should we willing to “do good to all people” (Gal. 6:10). Yet, the Bible also warns against those who won’t work. The apostle Paul was quite clear when he wrote, these words.
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thess 3:10-12)
We are commanded to “bear one another burdens” (Gal. 6:2). There are some burdens too heavy to be carried alone. Help is needed. However, the same text speaks of a different kind of ‘burden” and we told that “every one should bear his own burden.” There are responsibilities that I alone must shoulder. There are duties that no one can fulfill for me. There are obligations that I must meet.
The challenge arises when good people try to help those who won’t help themselves. Some folks refuse to work. To assume personal responsibility. To take care of themselves. Entitlement, victimization, and just plain laziness has created a culture characterized by “a hand out.”
I’m not critical of Officer DePrimo for his kindness. He did a good deed. Nor am I suggesting that we should be cold and calloused toward those less fortunate with legitimate needs. I just miss the Biblical values of “The Greatest Generation.” Hard work. Self reliance. Personal responsibility.
If more people possessed those virtues, it would be a lot easier to really help folks. As society is going today, it’s just hard to help some people.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman