This is a guest post by my friend Margaret Feinberg. Margaret (www.margaretfeinberg.com) is author of Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God which releases on Christmas Day. To learn more about her new book and the incredible offer available, check out www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck.
Where Are the Boots? The Danger of Losing the Wonder This Holiday Season
Less than a month ago, a New York Times police officer Lawrence DiPrimo left us wonderstruck by an act of kindness when Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Florence, Arizona, snapped a photo of a member of NYPD keeling down to give a homeless man a pair of boots on a frigid night.
The officer didn’t just hand the man a $100 pair of Skechers but took the time to slip socks and new boots on the man’s blistered feet—a scene reminiscent of John 13:1-17.
The photo was posted on Facebook and soon went viral with more than 20,000 comments. The story was the perfect reminder during the holiday season of the power of kindness, generosity, and love.
But overnight the homeless man reached an unwelcome celebrity status. Identified as Jeffrey Hillman, he was baffled and confused by all the attention telling the New York Times, “I was put on YouTube, I was put on everything without permission. What do I get? This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.”
No sooner had Hillman received the shoes than news sources reported he was running around barefoot again. Jeffery claimed that the shoes were too valuable and dangerous to wear so he hid them. Some online snipers accused Hillman of selling shoes for a “bump”.
Reporters then uncovered that Hillman wasn’t homeless, but had an apartment paid for by a federal agency. With more details of Hillman’s life exposed, the wondrous story soon lost its news cycle luster leaving people asking, “Where are the boots?”
Reflecting on this current story, I was drawn back to an ancient one.
In John 12, Mary breaks all of the social cues as well an alabaster jar filled with very costly perfume, and anoints the feet of Jesus, wiping his feet with her hair.
The pundits soon question the act. “Why has the perfume been wasted? It could have been sold and the money given to the poor?”
Mary is met with contempt for her extravagance. For Mary, things didn’t turn out like she expected. In a brief moment of self-awareness, she may have even second-guessed her decision, What have I done?
I don’t know if DiPrimo ever second-guessed his actions, but I wouldn’t be surprised. In these kinds of situations, almost anyone would.
But whatever the details on Hillman’s life, we must not lose our ability to be
wonderstruck by this random act of kindness.
The danger is that if we focus too much attention on the fact Jeffrey Hillman isn’t technically homeless and he doesn’t feel safe wearing the shoes, then the police officers extravagant generosity is reduced to a foolish act. Why was the money not given to a shelter instead?
But if we focus on the act of selflessly giving—purchasing and tenderly placing socks and shoes on someone in need—we begin to see the heart and hands of Christ. We awaken to the wonder that the person giving and serving this holiday season could be you and I. We begin to answer the invitation to live wonderstruck.