Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Journey 338

Read: Mark 1: 40-45
      A news that not only captured the attention and also hearts of the people last week was the news item about a New York cop offering boots to a homeless man on a bitterly cold night last month. I believe most of us would have read the news item and also seen the snap about this act of random kindness. The concerned officer was 25 year old Lawrence DePrimo, who was on counter terrorism duty in Times Square, New York. What forced the officer to do the random act of kindness was when he  saw a homeless man sitting on the 42nd Street on a cold night without a shoes. After realizing his plight, the officer went to a nearby store and bought for him a new pair of shoes that cost $100, knelt down and gave the shoes to the homeless man. The homeless man has been identified as 54 year old, Jeffery Hillman, who is an army veteran and an estranged father of two. He has been spending the last 10 years living homeless on the street of New York.  This random act of kindness of the police officer was captured by a Arizona tourist, who later mailed it to the New York Police Department. This photo was later posted on NYPD Facebook page and soon the photos went viral with almost 600,000 likes and 47,000 comments. But then the story does  not end there. The above mentioned incident or the act of kindness does not go along the lines of “All is Well” story nor on the well known ending in movies and novels “They  lived happily ever after”. New York times reported yesterday that this homeless man was again spotted on the street of New York, but the irony is that he still does not have a shoes. Where is the shoes given by Officer DePrimo?. When asked about the shoes given the police officer, Hillman replied that the shoes that was given to him is worth lot of money and therefore he has hidden his shoes because he fears for his life if he puts on the shoes. Hillman has also realized that both he and the Police Officer has received lot of pubic attention these day. He appreciates the officer for his act of kindness and wants to thank him and he wishes that more people like officer DePrimo  is there in the world. But then there is one fact that Hillman is upset also. Though homeless he feels that his permission should have been taken before his photo and news item was published and that he now needs a share of the pie too. This forces me to raise a few question. They are the following. 1. A kind hearted police officer gives a shoes to a homeless man because he feels sorry at his plight on a cold night. 2. The man instead of wearing the shoes, hides it, fearing for his life if he wears it, and then continues to walk barefoot in cold weather. 3. What would happen if another person gave another pair of shoes to Hillman again? Will he wear it to protect himself from cold or will he still hide it?. 4. Is hiding the shoes more beneficial for the homeless man than bearing the cold?. 5. The homeless  man now wants share of the money that may have been generated through You Tube or other news agencies that published his story, which may have helped them financially and in terms of publicity or whoever is connected with this news story. 6. After reading the reaction of the homeless man, how will another common man or someone think and act when he sees a person in need from now on?. All these questions are inter connected. I think this is where we need to look at the whole incident in a systemic way. Systemic because I feel the way the homeless man has acted in this manner may be because of the system and the structure that is prevalent in our society which often sees welfare of the underprivileged only in terms of charity rather than going beyond the acts of charity to acts of empowerment. How can we empower people like Hillman and consentize the rest so that the society that we live in has a system and structure where every person’s life is valued and made worth more than the material goods that he/ she possess.
               We are meditating on the theme “ Transformed Living” and the portion that we shall use for our meditation is from Mark 1” 40-45. This portion describes Jesus Christ not only healing a person from a dreaded disease but also empowering the person to lead a life of fullness. The person concerned in this portion is a nameless person. A person who suffers not only physically because of the dreaded disease that he carried in his body, but along with this physical disability, he is also socially, culturally and spiritually ostracized. He cannot come to the main stream of the society, neither participate in any religious or spiritual activities. He had to totally depend on the goodness and acts of kindness that people may show to him randomly. It is in this context of complete ostracization that the man beseeches Jesus to help him clean. Cleanliness to seen not only physically but also socially and spiritually. Jesus is compassionate towards him and heals him of his dreaded disease. What is important is the action that Jesus does after healing him of his physical disease. He tells the man to go to the priest so that they could examine him and give him the permission to offer the sacrifices that he can offer, the privilege that was denied to him till this day. What Jesus does through this action is helping the man to come to the main frame of the society, the temple and all other activities so that he regains his lost identity, his sense of individuality and reconnecting back to all avenues of life and society that was denied to him till that day. This action of Jesus Christ can be called as the act of empowering a person whereby he does not have always bend down and lower  himself in the eyes of the society so as to live at least partially as human beings. What is needed for all of us to emulate the action of Jesus Christ whereby we help others not only in terms of charity and welfare action but also in terms of certain systemic changes where every person will feel that he is valued irrespective of his infirmities, disabilities, colour of the skin or his/ her social conditions and in terms of material riches. It is then that the deeds of both Officer DePrimo and lifestyle of Hillman teaches us about how we can becomes instrument and channels of empowerment.

Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla