Larry DePrimo

You’ve probably heard about New York police officer Larry DePrimo this week. His act of kindness was caught on camera by a tourist in Times Square two weeks ago and, after it had been posted on the NYPD’s Facebook page earlier this week, has now been shared more than 130,000 times and, naturally, picked up by the world’s media.

If you haven’t heard about him, he’s an officer who, noticing a homeless man, barefoot, took it upon himself to buy him a pair of boots. He said he had been inspired by his grandfather who had told him as a boy, ‘If you are going to do something, do it 100 per cent. And do it, or don’t do it at all.’

What good advice and words we could all do well to remember.

Wait, I know exactly what the cynics among you are thinking: it’s all a hoax; the homeless man has done this before and has similarly conned others; it’s a bit rich praising the New York Police considering that successive New York mayors want rid of the city’s rough sleepers, etc.

But I want to take two things from the story and it’s not cynicism.

OK, three things and I’ll get all the scorn and scepticism out of the way quickly because it’s not the most important thing here. I admit, I did think how very refreshing it is to read something positive about the police for a change. You never know, next we might read a story about a Bull Terrier, not mauling a child but actually smothering his best friend with kisses. Or a hood-wearing teen, not mugging a pensioner but simply helping the old dear across the road of the sink estate they share. Stranger things have happened… I think.

The first thing is, how sad that both the police officer and the unwitting tourist who captured his act of kindness have been besieged by press. Aren’t there other people doing good deeds? Aren’t they taking something away from this genuine show of compassion by rolling out the pedestal and pushing them up it, whether they want to be up there or not? I realise it’s better for journalists to write feel-good pieces that make us all gush rather than arranging for phones to be hacked and families of celebrities to be harassed, obviously (what, too soon?), but I’m sure if they looked they’d find Good Samaritans in almost every town and village. If they tried, maybe they could even find a way to suitably honour these people’s noble efforts without trying to ferociously turn them into heroes against their will.

The second thing is, is it really asking too much for any one of us to take a few moments out of our busy lives to buy that person we see most days as we rush through the bus station a hot drink? To offer a cigarette? Hell, to simply smile and exchange pleasantries? Of course it’s not and shame on us all for hurrying by, pretending we don’t see.

As this kind-hearted police officer has said into flashing cameras and dozens of microphones this week, however bad things seem sometimes, someone, somewhere, always has it much worse. His deed serves as a timely reminder that we are all more fortunate than we often realise. I hate the expression “pay it forward” so much, but we should. (Pay it forward, I mean, not hate the expression. Although it is a horrible expression.)

How proud Officer DePrimo’s parents must be feeling. He takes home a modest salary for doing a difficult job. He should be on that pedestal, if only for a short while and only until he and he alone chooses to step down from it. I hope he has inspired you to consider somebody less fortunate; perhaps to check on that elderly neighbour who rarely gets any visitors, to see if he or she needs anything this weekend now that the weather is getting colder. It’s nothing, really, but to somebody who feels that society has forgotten about them, it would mean the world.

Any one of us could someday find ourselves alone, homeless or housebound, lonely and afraid, should fate and circumstance decide it. We shouldn’t forget that.

That’s all I wanted to say.

The chatroom will be open from 3pm (UK) if you’ve nothing better to do than call in and discuss random topics.

I leave you with the Christmas advert from homelessness charity, Crisis.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

36 thoughts on “Larry DePrimo”

  1. It was a beautiful gesture and I, for one, am pleased that it has garnered some attention. The media does not consider these not-so-random acts of kindness as glamorous to report on. Why, they would much prefer besmirching someone’s character or fueling the flames of feigned hatred on the extreme right or left during political transitions.

    We love feel good and feel bad stories but it’s a balancing act as we’re a fickle lot us folks and don’t want too much of a good (or bad) thing, right? Too many stories about goodwill to mankind and we start becoming complacent and roll our eyes at the ‘do-gooders’. We need just enough, and at the right time, to ‘restore’ the little faith we have [left]. And, as the festive season approaches, what better way to warm our cold, cold souls with a generously proportioned mug filled with steaming virtue as we camp out in front of the flames of altruism setting our hearts and mind aglow.

    I actually see far more acts of good on a daily basis in this emotionally charged but barren place we call The Big Apple than I would expect and they largely go unnoticed … well, certainly by the press. And it’s exactly as it should be except to second FEd’s ” …is it really asking too much for any one of us to take a few moments out of our busy lives to buy that person we see most days as we rush through the bus station a hot drink? To offer a cigarette? Hell, to simply smile and exchange pleasantries? Of course it’s not and shame on us all for hurrying by, pretending we don’t see.”

    Larry DePrimo is a lovely person and there are hundreds just like him. My guess is he’ll stay that way despite the zeroing in of that harsh limelight.

    Summum bonum …

  2. Hi FEd, How are you?!

    Well, last year I was in London and I visited Crisis Center. I met the staff and they are really helpful with the homeless people.

    Bye for now!

  3. Sometimes the pleasentries themselves make a difference. One day several years ago, I was on line at a fast food restaurant to get a soda. (Soda doesn’t involve unethical food production.) The girl behind the counter looked like she was having her worst day ever, like she was about to cry. Nobody seemed to care. When I got to the counter I said, “I hope you have a good day.” The girl smiled and her whole face lit up. She said “Thank you,” and I knew it had made her feel better. Didn’t cost me anything in time or money, but it did make a difference. Sometimes kind words are all it takes.

  4. WOW, really good to help the next but unfortunately the persons so great are really a small number in respect of the problems!

    anyway, exist always the greats!


  5. A scam? I think It doesn’t matter. Whether the homeless guy was running a scam or not, it doesn’t affect the genuine act of kindness and generosity of the cop.

    I also think that his kind gesture has nothing to do with him being a cop, he simply is a good human being, a good soul, whether he is wearing his police uniform or not.

    Now, what makes me feel a bit uncomfortable in this ‘fairy tale’ is that he got his photo taken and received web/public admiration and praise probably just because he was a police officer. Had he been a simple ‘nobody’, no one would have cared to photography him. There are plenty of ‘nobodies’ that do a wonderful job for homeless people everywhere in the world without ever getting any praise. I wonder what their reaction was when they read about this ‘wonderful’ story.

    Also, a police officer must not earn a high salary. Aren’t the poorest people the most generous?

  6. Well I’ll be damned …

    Homeless man shoeless again in NYC despite boots

    And to take a segment [out of context] …

    “…he wants “a piece of the pie” because the photo was posted online “without permission.” …” Now who would’ve guessed 😉 although for him those boots are indeed a ‘high value’ item — likely to get stolen or it’s very possible he sold them himself … for his next fix or drink.

    Reminds me a bit of the pessimist and optimist arguing about the glass being half full or half empty and while they hashing it out, the opportunist comes along and drinks the contents.

    Soon there’ll be a ‘jest’ of lawyers [much prefer that to ‘an eloquence’] hoping to cash in where they can …

    1. How very sad.

      I’ve also sunk back into burning cynicism after reading about the “evil junkie mum” who savagely beat a frail 92-year-old (“fiercely independent decorated war veteran”) to death by battering the poor gentleman around the head with a saucepan after conning her way into his home with a meal.

      So much for popping in to check on that elderly neighbour.

      Maybe we ought to be contributing instead towards the cost of more prisons, halfway houses, psychiatric hospitals and drug rehabilitation centres. Not to be built in our back yards, obviously…

    2. Assuming it’s true, and why not?, what a shame. But of course we don’t know all the facts. So maybe a shame that this kind gesture was nor appreciated as such. A shame that when you are on the streets your sense of value gets distorted, that (presumably) drink had a bigger attraction than warm feet, that he really did fear that they could be stolen, that he really is as opportunist and self serving as all the folks eagerly pursuing spurious personal injury and insurance mis-selling claims, most certainly a shame that all the nay-Sayers who say it’s pointless and wrong to help people out will point to this example.

      Just to spite them all, don’t be put off. Next time you get the chance, take a leap of faith like Larry and do the right thing anyway. You’ll feel good and just maybe the person you help will too.

  7. Hi FeD

    Good thought for the time of year. I haven’t heard this story but it sounds like this guy is a very thoughtful person. But there are a lot of them out there, they just don’t get noticed, but in a way that is probably how most want it.

    But we could all do little things to make a difference to someone else. It could be like New York Dan’s selfless effort to brighten the day of a shop assistant. It could be a “thank you” to the person who held the door open for you, no matter what the sexes involved. It could be a pleasantry made to the person standing next to you at the bus stop or train queue. It could be refusing to take that phone call at the checkout and saying “thanks” to the assistant. It could be to let a car driver out into the flow of traffic that was not his right of way. It could be a wave of “thanks” to the driver who has just done that for you. It could be a smile to the shop assistant who has just keyed through your 60 odd items of shopping through the till. It could be taking a few seconds longer and wait for the person already on the stairs to come up first.

    All of these things will not cost a penny. They should give someone else some pleasure at being alive and re-affirming their faith in the human race. It will give the giver a warm glow.

    Our Grandparents would have called it normal behaviour!! Where have we gone wrong folks?

    1. So very true, Julian.

      I don’t know about you, but I try to do all these things and then get really annoyed, particularly when I’m behind the wheel, when others don’t bother to. And I swear that one of these days I’m going to snatch back the Next Customer Please bar-thing (which never has a comma after “customer”, but that’s another annoyance for another time) that I’ve thoughtfully and considerately and perfectly placed behind my shopping on the conveyor belt for the benefit of the person waiting behind (whose trolley, yes, I had noticed, bumped against me more than once as I was loading my shopping, such is their impatience and rudeness) even though I didn’t have to put it there. The person in front of me didn’t put one behind their shopping for me. When the ignorant sod can’t even be bothered to grunt something vaguely resembling polite appreciation it almost always makes me want to reach for their throat and swipe the damn thing away and place it back on the rack, out of their reach, and theatrically huff something about how PEOPLE ARE SO BLOODY UNGRATEFUL!

      And then the first few items of the silly fool’s shopping get put through with my own, and the check-out operator acts as if it’s my fault and has to call someone to remove the items; and they take far too long to come casually strolling over and when they do, they just give me the same disappointed look, as if I’ve done something wrong and not the two more obvious culprits; and the people waiting behind are all tutting and sighing and mumbling, and all of this simmering, misdirected rage is of course completely wasted on the stupid person, oblivious to the unfolding scenes, who should have just thanked me in the first place and then none of this would have happened…

      Online shopping really is brilliant, isn’t it? Getting your groceries delivered is wonderful.

    2. Well FEd, I think Mr Twain has a goog advice:

      “Do not argue with an idiot they drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

      I found that very helpful for me, yet it needs attention not to become a snob.

      As for the main story, it would be nice if it is authentic…


  8. The Larry DePrimo story has turned out to be faked, it was reported last night. But it was a great story while it lasted, and it made a lot of people feel better about the state of humanity.

    That has me thinking about the state of humanity. Yesterday in the teacher’s lounge at school, I asked someone for change of a dollar so I could get a snack from the vending machine. This is a custodian who has been with us for only a few weeks. He gave me the change, but he would not take my dollar bill. He said he would always help others, which was very nice. But then, he went into a tirade about not helping the homeless, because they should be helping themselves. I smiled and nodded, not wanting to get into an argument with this guy (I had to get back to my students). It was awful, what had started as a nice gesture had quickly turned into a message of hate.

    It is a weird politic in America over the past thirty years or so, a politic that blames social problems on those who are affected. So if someone is homeless, or poor, or unemployed, it’s because they are lazy; and if they are sick, it’s because they did not take care of themselves. It is strange way to be “holier than Thou,” a hateful and arrogant attitude against humanity, an “every man for himself” mentality that I just have no tolerance for.

    So why did it feel so good when we thought someone had bought a pair of boots for a person who needed them? It is because it flies in the face of this kind of hate. We need to hear good things about people who care, and there is so little of that in the media. Stories like this fill a need that is not being filled elsewhere. The conventional wisdom is that these stories are boring, but obviously they are not.

    And the best way to fill this void is to be as kind as possible, to give to charity, to put a few extra coins in the “give a penny, take a penny” tray at the corner store, to wish someone a good day. With all the hate we are bombarded by, we need to do these things just to remind ourselves (and those around us) that there is still a civilized world out there.

    1. I know this may sound somewhat callous and most certainly heartless but a part of me agrees with the Custodian at your school Dan. Obviously I wasn’t privy to the conversation or its tone but I wonder how much of it was hate rather than pragmatism based upon his own unique experiences. A great percentage of the homeless have chosen to be so and it can be disheartening when the ‘discovery’ is made that you have been giving a piece of yourself daily to someone who is not so needy after all. It’s difficult to distinguish what is and isn’t legitimate anymore and we revert to cynicism after being ‘burned’ over and over again. Well, I do anyway. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times over the years I’ve passed by ‘my regulars’, stopped off and bought a cup of tea or hot chocolate and a croissant to give on a cold winter morning only to be cursed out that it wasn’t cash. Or, to grab a handful of coins that have been thrown into my bag during the week and place them in someone’s cup or hat and then to be scolded that ‘it ‘ain’t notes’. I tire of it but can’t stop and now tend to be very selective about who I give to and why.

      Many panhandlers make more in a day than many full-time employees, and, by their own admission, fare very well. Of course there are others that don’t and have genuine need. It is the latter that the System fails.

      I ‘know’ a regular in the subway at 53rd & Fifth Avenue who serves as the ‘town crier’ for lack of a better description. He had his throat cut by another man back in 2002 and there was a collective worry, complete with posters calling for a speedy recovery and a small fund-raising effort. He’s been a fixture for as long as I can remember and always offers up commentary on world affairs, current events, society, the media — you name it, he speaks of it. He appears to have a deep-rooted scorn for women but always gives me a warm, if somewhat eery smile. It’s possible he’s as ‘mad as a hatter’ or not, the point being that he has chosen this life for himself preferring to be unencumbered by the ‘travails’ of taxes, mortgages, car payments, child support and all that other ‘nonsense’ that makes up and average person’s life. I found these two articles from 2002 — this and this (the New York Times, in my opinion, gets it all wrong — Carl is not a comedian although his commentary is often comic.)

      Recommendations on the topic of homelessness are a book called The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and a documentary movie called Begging Naked — both stories will stay with me forever. I have seen/read many other but none have had such an impact on me as the two mentioned.

      The Larry De Primo story wasn’t really fake (it was a story about him and his gesture) but the homeless man he aided was. A fraudster by most accounts and the kind of individual who keeps me peppered with just the right dose of cynicism to remember that there are givers, takers and many, many oxygen thieves and I’ll never stop smiling, thanking or giving of myself to those I CHOOSE with the full knowledge that I might be taken advantage of.

  9. What a nice story, it almost gets me in a Christmas-mood 🙂 AND at the same time, it’s an example which contradicts Pavlov when she says, that media doesn’t want to report on things of kindness. Hey, the story must have made it around the world!

    In DK there’s sort of a movement, they call it “F****** Kind” – trying to spread kindness between people. The stories of kindness and people helping each other are countless. Stories like that – and of Larry DePrimo – makes you think positive, and expect the best from other people, rather than the worst I think.

    PS: I’ve heard there was a test, where a wallet with money is dropped at the central railway station in a number of large cities in different countries. How often is it returned to the police or the owner, with the money still in it? In Copenhagen – it’s 10 times out of 10. 🙂 Now, that’s kind. (Although I’m sure we have pickpockets at the railway station, too.) 😉

  10. A brief news item in my local newspaper this morning led me to this article from The New York Times a few days ago.

    “Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Mr. Hillman said in an interview on Broadway in the 70s. “I could lose my life.”

    Once again, it doesn’t matter whether the homeless guy is sincere or not, but, to my mind, the moral of the story is that money will always rule the world, in any circumstances. And that is very sad.

    Even sadder: He has two children — Nikita, 22, and Jeffrey, 24 — but has had little contact with them since a visit three years ago, Mr. Hillman said.

    1. Very sad indeed.

      I take back my joking “backhander” comment and hope he somehow acquires a more inconspicuous pair of shoes.

    2. … so why doesn’t he trade them for a few couples of really cheap or used ones? He obviously has some place to store them.

      Am I a cynic when I think that beggars wearing shoes do not make enough $$$?


    1. What a voice.

      It sounds to me like a simple, but beautiful reflective song. How I would like to understand the lyrics. (Couldn’t find them online.)

  11. What a can of worms this turned out to be. But such is life, black or white, never shall the twain meet which it should be. I think?

    Merry Whatever You Want to Call it Everyone!!!!

    Let’s Take 5, sorry to hear that a great Jazzman David Brubeck passed away at a healthy 91 years of age yesterday.


  12. That is a lovely story of an act of kindness, a heartwarming story.

    It is still heartwarming despite more information about the poor shoeless man. I read somewhere that he doesn’t know how his life came to be reduced to what it is now. He said he’d put the shoes somewhere safe. A report says he does have a place to live but has problems. If we read between a few of the lines given to us by the press, we realise that he does indeed have problems. He has probably been a victim of theft or violence, he doesn’t trust people, he certainly doesn’t know how to look after himself and for whatever reason, has no close family.

    I don’t think he was being cunning or greedy or ungrateful in saying he wanted a piece of the pie, he realised that someone has made money out of highlighting his plight, why shouldn’t he have some of it? He won’t get any of course but he doesn’t deserve derision for having that thought.

    I hope the highlighting of his story gets him a decent social worker on his case because he does need help to get his life back to a more physical, psychological, social, healthy way of life.

    Another nice thing would be for the police to lock him up in a nice warm cell and give him a good meal every now and then.

    ash 🙂

    1. Your message is so on point Ash and sadly, he will not get the help he needs for a variety of reasons none of which we are necessarily aware. All we can do is speculate and give voice to our hopes or views for/of him, the system, etc. I still maintain the story is about an act of genuine kindness, selflessness and empathy which should be a part of who we are as humans irrespective of the outcome.

      I couldn’t help smile at your comment:

      “Another nice thing would be for the police to lock him up in a nice warm cell and give him a good meal every now and then.”

      It’s not a patronizing but rather a wry smile knowing that the prison system over here (or possibly anywhere) doesn’t work that way…

    2. Pavlov, I know. The hospitals and police over here have ‘rules’ or ‘practices’ whereby they avoid taking in homeless or distressed people. 🙁 The hierarchy involved all think it’s ‘somebody else’s problem’, and it’s not coming out of their budget.

      That’s why I thought it would be nice if the police could take them in sometimes. Then in the morning get onto the social or welfare services complaining that they weren’t doing their job properly to protect that person. Social and welfare are the safety nets that we all expect to be there for us should we need them and what our taxes pay for.

      Organisations such as Crisis are the ideal advocates for homeless (or not coping in the system) people, power to their elbow.

      Gosh, that turned into a bit of a rant didn’t it. :)) The problem really is Whose budget pays?

      Will get off my soap box now.


  13. Living around the NY area and commuting into this city daily, this story has been well reported and a bit of a roller coaster. Yes, the officer did a good deed. Then as mentioned in the comments, the person showed up the next day without any shoes again. It was also reported that this homeless person chooses this life and prefers to be shoeless. Which raises the question of, “Who are we to judge?”

    The homeless man did state that he was very grateful. The officer also stated that he would still do it all again even though the homeless man is not using the shoes.

    I guess it is kinda a story with a happy ending even though many are puzzled on why the homeless man still chooses to not wear shoes.


  14. That was really well said, FEd.

    I hope that everyone will have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year’s for 2012 was terrible…

    Take Care, Thomas

  15. Change of topic — RIP Ravi Shankar. Such an enormous influence on my favourite Beatle, George Harrison.

  16. 14 December.

    Seven years ago today, la genèse de The Blog, right? Pour notre plus grand bonheur. 🙂

    Tchin, FEd. Thumbs up to you.

  17. In regards to the homeless topic it is very sad to see all the families and individuals who are struggling for basic survival needs. A lot is due to mental illness and not having care facilities for them. Sometimes it is self inflicted due to bad habits i.e. drink, drugs, gambling, etc. (but that would be an illness sense statistics state that one out of five people suffer from addictions). Some people (I know first hand) live pay check to pay check. If you live the USA without a union you have no rights and can be fired for anything! Hard to make rent. Also no rent control in certain states the rent can go up $100.00 a year. It did to me living on a Mountain working at a resort. Till you are priced out. So just surviving and getting basic needs can be a very real life challenge.

  18. I quite agree that these stories should not be noteworthy, but part of the way we all interact with each other. I think it’s a much better world when we become less focussed on the ‘I’ and more focussed on the ‘we’. I would hope the majority of people look to help others when they can. I know we can’t all afford to buy someone shoes, but we can, at least, buy a warm coffee for someone we can plainly see is in need. Sometimes some warm words are enough. People all need a bit of a lift now and then…validation…a positive word. I guarantee that when you help someone, in a big or small way, you will feel good about it…better than you feel with a buzz or a shiny new iPod.

    With regard to getting through life, we will all do better betting through it together.

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