Two NYPD cops’ encounter with homeless man reaffirms faith in humanity; don’t miss small gestures!

A commuter was minding his own business in New York’s Grand Central Station when he saw two New York Policemen run toward a homeless man who was dumping out a garbage bin to get at the aluminum cans inside. He prepared for an uncomfortable scene, but what he saw instead made his heart soar and reaffirmed his faith in humanity. It is a nice story as we prepare for the upcoming Christmas season.

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ESPN employee Joshua Lagan posted a story on his Facebook page about how two NYPD officers handled a situation with a homeless man because he wanted the world to understand the “small gestures” that police perform every day as they go about their duties to serve and protect. Lagan said he wanted to make sure people don’t miss those small gestures.

In his post, Lagan said that as he saw a homeless man dumping out garbage on the subway platform he also spied two of New York’s finest literally running toward the homeless man to stop him from spreading the trash around. Dumping out trash is against the law and Lagan was expecting to see the officers get rough and tough with the guy.

Lagan took a cell phone snapshot of the scene likely expecting to have a photo of a beat down. But what he got instead was something very different.

As they confronted him, one of the officers asked what the homeless man was doing. The man said he was collecting cans to turn them in for cash.

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“What are you collecting cans for?” the cop asked. “Socks. I want socks,” the homeless man replied.

Then, instead of a bum’s rush or a beat down, a shocked and delighted Lagan described what the officer did next…

Without hesitation, the Cop put his arm on his shoulder and smiling said “I’ll buy you socks. It’s Christmas soon right? I’ll buy you socks for Christmas. Merry Christmas,” he said smiling broadly. “Let’s go to the store.” The homeless man was so shocked he just kept stammering, “are you serious?” “Are you serious?”

I looked around the subway station, their backs were toward the cops and homeless man. They had missed it. They had missed the moment of humanity, the exchange of man in a good situation reaching down to help someone in a bad situation. They were waiting for the train, and that was what mattered.

Lagan concluded his Facebook story saying, “It was a small gesture, but I saw a man regardless of color or uniform show compassion for another person. How often do we miss opportunities to do that?”

After Lagan’s post began to go viral, the New York Police Department did a little leg work and tracked down the officer in Lagan’s photo and confirmed that the “socks” story actually happened.

On the Twitter feed of New York Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, we discover the story of Officer Frank Rendina and his kindness to Ron Brown, a homeless man who Officer Rendina sees frequently on his beat.

As Mr. Lagan said in his Facebook post, look around you, America. Keep your eyes open so you don’t miss these “small interactions” that happen every day. It might help take the cynical edge off modern living.


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