No-one stopped to help the homeless man . . .
Some – to their shame – mocked him, teasing and taunting before disappearing into the night.
Trudging along the cold, hard sidewalk, shoeless and shivering, the man’s prospects did not look good.
But then along came Lawrence DePrimo . . .
Officer Lawrence DePrimo, that is, who is not just one of the NYPD’s finest but – in our opinion, at least – one of the planet’s too.
Noticing the man’s plight and the uncharitable reaction to it, Lawrence’s response couldn’t have been more compassionate.
“I went up to him and said ‘Where are your shoes?'” recalls the modest Midtown cop. “He [the homeless man] said, ‘It’s OK, I’ve never had a pair of shoes, but God bless you’. That took me aback because this gentleman had enough heart to say God bless me, and he didn’t even have a pair of socks! He was just such a kind gentleman that I wanted to help him. I had to.”
The temperature in the Times Square area that night was around 35 degrees and, even in his stout NYPD-issue boots and two pairs of socks, the bitter cold had left Lawrence’s feet numb.
“I looked down at the gentleman’s feet and I could see the blisters,” he explains. “It was so cold. I just had to do something.”
The burning desire to help led to Lawrence dashing to the nearest shoe store and, having explained the situation to the staff, buying the man – later identified as Jeffrey Hillman – the best pair of boots that he could afford.
“He said ‘This man outside is shaking and he doesn’t have shoes’,” recalls sales assistant Kanissia Goslyn. “[He said] ‘He looks like he’s dying’. I asked him what he needed. He said he just wanted something warm; we gave him a 50 percent discount because of his kindness.”
Having paid $50 for the boots, Lawrence also picked up some thick socks and took them back outside to a grateful Jeffrey . . .
“When I brought out the shoes, he had a smile from ear to ear,” he says. “It was amazing. It’s just what I felt I had to do. It was a humbling experience.”
Here at OM HQ, where such qualities as kindness and compassion have long inspired our efforts, the thing that impresses us the most about this touching tale is that, having bought the boots and socks, Lawrence took the time and effort to put them on Jeffrey’s feet himself.
“I was never so impressed in my life,” admits Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Arizona, who captured the episode on camera.
“The part that got me was that he put the shoes and socks on the man,” says Lawrence’s mom, Angela. “A lot of people can buy things, but he actually bent down and put them on. When he told me that part, I just gave him a hug.”
Lawrence is a hero, albeit a reluctant one. Had it not been for Jennifer Foster’s footage, his kindness might never have come to light. Seeking the spotlight was never part of his plan.
This is thing that endears Lawrence to us the most: That this was his natural reaction. That it seemed like the obvious thing to do. To help out another. To ease his suffering. To connect.
For that, he deserves all the praise that is raining down on him: From the NYPD’s top brass. From Mayor Bloomberg. From us, here at OM HQ, and from the innumerable admirers who have seen Jennifer Foster’s photograph in recent days.
Not that he’s letting his new-found fame go to his head – anything but, in fact . . .
“I was able to share that moment with him and then he just continued on his way,” adds Lawrence, who keeps the receipt for Jeffrey’s boots in his bulletproof vest as a reminder. “I think [that’s] important. Some people have it really tough and, when you’re having a bad day, you might think things can’t get any worse. [But] then you see something like this and you remember [that some] people have it worse.”
Here in our studio, where such selflessness inspires our OMs, we couldn’t agree more. Here’s to kindness, here’s to compassion and here’s to the amazing Lawrence DePrimo . . .