Sunday, December 2, 2012

Inherent Value

Truth be told - I am really not much of a Christmas guy.  Do not misunderstand - much like every child I dug the hell out of it when I was a little boy (although I never quite grasped why Santa was either (a) a peacenik; or (b) a cheapskate and steadfastly refused to bring me the 500 piece plastic army men set advertised for $7.99 on the back cover of EVERY comic book I ever purchased).  Also, as a parent when Suzanne and Rob were little - even after they grew out of "believer" mode - I derived a lot of enjoyment from watching them react to whatever it was they received on Christmas morning.

Somewhere along the line I became fairly jaded by the whole thing. Do not misunderstand.  I am not to be confused with a certain Dickens character by any means.  I am also not however someone who experiences something akin to sugar shock at the mere mention of the word "Christmas".  Maybe if fewer practicioners of the legal profession used it as an excuse for not being willing to get their cases moved further along towards adjudication it would grate on my nerves far less.  Man, if I had a dollar for every time in the past two decades some other attorney has woven "Well it is Christmas time and...." into his/her narrative (ALIBI) for not accomplishing something on a particular case, I would be able to hit the snooze on the alarm clock three days a week.  At least.  Santa has a "NICE" list and a "NAUGHTY" list.  That is one list too many.  I have but one:  my "PEOPLE I WANT TO PUNCH IN THE LARYNX" list.  Saves reams of paper.  And copious amounts of time. 

All of the above notwithstanding, it is impossible for even a caustic, hard-hearted prick like me to have not learned of the exploits of NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo and thought of how what would be a great story any time takes on even greater significance this time of year.  Officer DePrimo - a 25 year-old who has been on the job for a little more than two years and who lives at home with his folks on Long Island - was on foot patrol in the area of W. 44th and Broadway on the evening of November 14 when he made the acquaintance of a homeless man who had no shoes.  Officer DePrimo - noting that his own feet in spite of being swathed in two pairs of thermal socks and combat boots were freezing - realized that the pavement had to feel impossibly cold on this man's feet.  DePrimo approached the gentleman to ask him whether he had any shoes to put on his battered, blistered feet.  “It’s okay, Sir, I’ve never had a pair of shoes,” the man replied. “But God bless you.”

If the story of Officer DePrimo's efforts to assist one of the City's homeless ended there, then it would be a nice story about one of New York's Finest trying to do the right thing to help a person in need.  The story - of course - does not end there.

After thanking Officer DePrimo for asking about his lack of shoes, the homeless gentleman walked away along Seventh Avenue.  Not being the type of fella who takes "No" for an answer, Officer DePrimo went after him.  When he caught up with him, he asked the man what his shoe size was and armed with that information went into a Skechers store on 42nd Street and purchased the man a pair of all-weather boots.  He apparently told the sales clerk that he needed a pair of boots "that would last a while" and cared not about the price.  He paid for them (kudos to the store for applying a hearty discount to the purchase price) and after purchasing heavy socks (in another store if I understand the sequence of events correctly) kneeled down on the sidewalk and placed the socks and shoes on the man's feet. 

Unbeknownst to either Officer DePrimo or the man, while the former was putting the shoes on the latter's feet a tourist from Arizona was nearby.  As she observed what was unfolding on the sidewalk on a busy midtown street only a few feet away, she took a picture.  If there is any justice in this world, the image she captured will become as iconic for its depiction of the way in which those who take an oath to serve and protect the rest of us not only talk that talk but walk that walk every day as anything Norman Rockwell ever painted.  

Samuel Johnson once wrote, "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who does him absolutely no good."  I do not know Officer DePrimo and would not presume to speak for him.  However if I may, I think he might be inclined to point out that Johnson's remark - while true at least in part - is not wholly accurate because everyone is in fact capable of "doing good" for another, whether the benefit conferred is tangible or not.  I am willing to wager that if one was to ask Officer DePrimo whether the man he interacted with on that frigid November night was in fact someone "who did him absolutely no good" he would likely respond, "No."  To that point:  Officer DePrimo keeps the receipt from his Skechers shopping jaunt in his vest to remind him that "sometimes people have it worse." 

Merry Christmas Officer DePrimo - to you and your family.  Thank you for your service to the men and women of New York.  And thank you for helping a hard heart remember that when people speak of "Christmas time" they may be speaking of something far more substantive than relentless television advertisements and mile-long traffic jams leading in and out of every shopping mall.  

It turns out that you have done me a hell of a lot of good too. 


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