Human warmth in a frozen city
House News, an online media in Hong Kong, quoted a report about an incident last November that happened in Times Square in the city of New York.
It was about a raggedly dressed homeless person sitting barefoot on a street corner on a bitterly cold evening. A police officer on duty had spotted him and bought him a pair of $100 boots. This random act of kindness was photographed and the picture e-mailed to the New York Police Department (NYPD) by a tourist.
The incident went viral after the NYPD posted the photo on its Facebook page. Many people were moved. The news media interviewed the police officer, the homeless person and the tourist. The police officer recounted the incident in a cool and objective manner, saying he felt cold that night, too, even though he was wearing two pairs of stocks, and so he went and bought a pair of boots from a nearby store.
The police officer even praised the homeless man, saying the latter was the most polite person he had ever met. He added that after he had given the footwear to the itinerant he had invited him to have some coffee and food. The man took the boots, but declined the invitation, saying, "You have done enough, and may God bless you".
A month later, the homeless man was spotted once again barefoot. When interviewed by the New York Times, he said, "I have hidden the boots. They are worth a lot of money. I could lose my life."
The whole incident is devoid of any sentimental exaggerations or lofty utterances, devoid of the faintest hint of hackneyed expressions like "the best way to help oneself is to offer help to others". The NYPD didn't recommend or give awards to the police officer. The mercy giver wasn't supercilious, and the mercy taker wasn't humble, either.
But the incident reflects one facet of modern society: There is a wide disparity between the rich and the poor, yet there is still warmth among fellow human beings.
This article was originally published in Chinese in the United Daily News (21 February, 2014).
March 10, 2014