Story Time

A cop gives his shoes to a beggar on the street, little did he know whom he really was

Policeman gave his shoes to a homeless person, not imagining how the beggar would react. He did not make that gesture of kindness, thinking that someone was recording him, nor that he would become famous. He had simply spent a lifetime working in a job that consisted of nothing more than risking his own life in the service of others and had become accustomed to giving his all to make society a little better every day.

That policeman was not like all others who followed a monotonous schedule, thinking only of the salary that would arrive at the end of the month. He did not distinguish whether he was on duty or in his free time when it came to helping the needy, and in this help did not distinguish whether what the neighbor asked of him was within his duties as a policeman.

If he could do it, he did it. That is why that afternoon when he came out of the station and he saw a beggar walking barefoot, he did not hesitate for an instant to take off his shoes and offer them to the man because he had another pair of shoes at home. What he did not imagine was who this beggar was and the unexpected consequences that this gesture of kindness would have. The policeman’s name was Mark, and he was born into a traditional American family. His parents, defenders of order and American values, raised him in a world of respect for the law and patriotic symbols.

The little boy, however, from a very early age he began to disassociate himself from the way his parents understood the world. For them, love for their country translated into contempt for foreigners, especially Latinos and African Americans living in the United States. They were militant racists who in their daily conversations expressed profound phrases of resentment towards anyone with a different skin color or language.

Mark, on the other hand, felt something inside him from an early age that made him different. He never doubted the American values that his parents passed on to him, but as soon as he could remember, he became convinced that there was a different way to make those ideals a reality for him in America was possible in which everyone could fit Blacks and whites, natives and immigrants without undermining the American traditions in which he believed so much.

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At first he felt bad and guilty for thinking this way, as he considered that in his different thinking it was a way of betraying his parents. But his own instinct was stronger, and as he grew older it only confirmed his convictions until one day, as a teenager, Mark began to meet likeminded people and organized to fight for a free and open America where Blacks and whites alike could live. At first he was able to attend these meetings in secret from his parents, but in the end they found out about it, and it became a great promotion for the family. Both his father and mother were violently disappointed by their son’s attitudes, and no matter how hard he tried to explain to them that he defended American values, they pegged him as a Communist, a danger to the family and the country, and since then their attitude changed. Mark depressed several times because of the discussion, but he was convinced that he was doing nothing wrong and went ahead with his ideals.

But very soon life would show him again that human beings are incomprehensible by nature and that many times those who claim to be the most open minded turn out to be precisely the most closed off and Orthodox. When he graduated from high school, Mark decided that he wanted to be a policeman. For him, that profession was fully in line with his thoughts, because who better than a policeman to enforce the laws and ensure equality among all citizens, black and white, as dictated by law? Unfortunately, his peers at the meetings did not feel the same way, and when he told them of his joyful decision because he thought they would support him, he received a unanimous rejection from them. They all considered him a traitor to the ideals they defended.

Since they intransigently maintained that the police was a repressive body at the service of a white elite and that this could not change no matter how well intentioned a policeman might be as an individual disappointed in them and sad to lose their friendship, Mark decided to go ahead with his idea, for as with his parents, he was unwilling to negotiate his convictions just because of the prejudices of others. It is true that this decision improved his relationship with his parents a little, but Mark had no illusions, because he knew that if they loved him again as before, it was not because they understood his motivation but because they shared the prejudices of his colleagues. For both his parents, the police were there to defend a white America and keep the black and Latino threat at Bay. For this reason, his former colleagues rejected him, and for this reason his parents were once again proud of him. But both were wrong because for Mark it was about something much deeper.

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It was about his will to show that what was wrong was not the laws nor the institutions, but the misuse of them by some officials. And he was willing to show that he could be a correct policeman who would look after the welfare of all Blacks and whites. So Mark went ahead and entered the training course to become a policeman. But it was then when he received another disappointment in his life. Unlike what he imagined in the talks and physical tests he had to go through, he saw reproduced by the same police officers, those prejudices of his parents and his peers.

Even the African American police officers who appeared to be racist and openly advocated that black people were potentially criminals and constituted a threat to the security of the United States. It seems that this act of racism and serving power was not a matter of bad apples, but something intrinsic to the nature of state institutions, especially the police force. Mark contemplated the idea of abandoning his pretensions of being a policeman and resigning himself to being a worker in some factory. But he thought that if he was a resigned to earning a salary all his life, he was already well on his way to graduating and starting to receive a salary. So he decided to continue with his initial plan and finally ended up becoming a policeman.

Although he still believed in the idea of a United States for all, both Blacks and whites, he now considered himself to be able to fulfill that goal by being a policeman, a job he resigned himself to simply to have something to live on. However, Mark never stopped believing in a better society and therefore tried to perform his duties to the fullest, even when what was asked of him was outside his duties as a policeman. Until that afternoon when he left his shift at the police station and saw a barefoot beggar. He didn’t think twice and gave him his shoes. What Mark had no idea was that this was not a real beggar, but that the policeman had mistakenly intruded on the scene of a film shoot.

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The barefoot man was not a homeless man, but a famous Hollywood actor. And Mark’s gesture of handing him his own shoes was caught on camera at the time. It was nothing more than a funny misunderstanding. The situation was explained to Mark and his shoes were returned to him and he continued on his way home. But a year later, the production leaked several behind the scenes scenes, including the one in which a policeman gave his shoes to the film’s protagonist, believing he was a real beggar.

That video went around the country’s TV stations. The actors were commenting in detail what happened in the interviews they were given. And finally, Mark was located by the media. The policeman took advantage of the microphones to tell his life story and defend his ideals of a better United States where everyone, black and white, rich and poor, could fit. His reflections were so deeply rooted in American society that Mark received a merit award from the governor of the state where he worked.

And although the problems of racism continued to plague his country, Mark was convinced that he had done his bit to help build the society he dreamed of.

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