Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Doing the Right Thing Don't Always Get You a Gold Star

Officer Lawrence DePrimo saw a homeless man without shoes on a cold, November day. The twenty five year old cop knew he was freezing under his two layers. DePrimo asked the man if he had something to cover his feet. The man responded saying that he never had shoes. This prompted the young officer to go to the Sketcher store, buy the man a one hundred dollar pair of boots, and then gave them to him. The act was caught on camera and made the nice looking, nice guy of New York City's finest a national hero.

But there is more to the story as it unfolds. Reporters and people around the world captured by this tale of good will began to follow the story. However, as they did they caught Jeffrey Hillman a week later without shoes once again. Instead of being thankful the degenerate said, "Boots like these could get me killed on the street." He first told some he hid them. Then he said he threw them out. Finally Jeffrey Hillman said he sold them.

It gets worse.

Jeffrey Hillman isn't even homeless. The once goofy high school basketball star and former army veteran was in and out of a transitional housing unit before social services for veterans got him an apartment in the Bronx. Despite having a roof over his head and a warm bed he still chooses to pan handle. Yes, Officer DePrimo did the right thing, but I am sure he feels like a schmuck right now.

But the right thing doesn't always have a reward.

A few years ago a friend of mine was having an extramarital affair, and this was the latest chapter in a marriage that was unhappy. With a husband refusing to work, she was facing eviction. It was raining and pouring. Needless to say, I became her crying shoulder. Trying to make it in the comedy world, she lacked the goods onstage and was often ripped apart by our peer group of vultures. Being a true friend I always defended her. Even when she sucked the living, breathing life out of me, I still stuck by her. Well she repaid my kindness by trying to bad mouth me to a club owner because I began producing a show that rivaled hers. Not to mention when I got television time that in her humble opinion I did not deserve she stopped speaking to me. So much for friendship.

Then there was that other time where a comedian I respected, talented but washed up, appeared on my webcast. I had been a fan of her work and had become connected with her through my friend Derek. I assumed she would be cool. She was but when the camera began rolling she focused on the fact she was not being paid. Meanwhile she knew this when she came on the show. Afterwards she wanted to talk my ear off and I couldn't get rid of her. Needless to say,the video went up and in those days I was low tech. Well she filed a complaint on youtube to say I used her image without her permission and made me take the video down. It was no problem, I have eighty others. However, people who care about image permission typically have no career and lots of time to worry about that crap because they aren't working. She's on a roster of a manager who represents hasbeens when their careers need a final resting place. She says he is the greatest guy ever. I hope she remembers that when they are watering the flowers near the tombstone that used to be her career, or her five minutes of fame. Either way, I have friends and get invited to places that she can only get a glimpse at on television.

Of course then there were the times I was kind to people who everyone was unkind to. And there were times those people came and stabbed me in the back as a thank you. One woman in particular, a satellite comic who claims to be molested by her father for attention and often changes the story, used to show up at places weeping wildly. I used to comfort her and let her know it was alright. Needless to say, it would come back to bite me. We were performing one night and she went up before me. As I heard her set a joke in there sounded a little familiar and then I realized it was mine! Word for word. I said there were only so many ideas in the world. But no, she stole my joke. End of story.

Sometimes we do the right thing and we get screwed entirely. There used to be a kid who hung around our crew and was on the edge. People merely tolerated him and his antics. Like Jeffrey Hillman, he insisted he was a street kid when later it turned out he had a house. Of course there was the far fetched stories and people who tried to help him. One guy I know got him a cellphone which was an epic fail, and the kid ended up selling it. This dude shows up in my hood and we talk. As usual he is down on his luck and I did the nice thing of buying him dinner. Leaving the money on the table for the meal, I left. He walked out after me and I thought nothing of it. I came back the next day with a friend and the waiter said, "You accidentally left without paying yesterday." WTF?!?!?! Well, I thought about it. Had the money fallen on the floor? Oh no. That lil SOB took it and put it in his pocket?!?!?! I had to look like a schmuck at my home diner! Lucky he had to flee or else I was going to strangle him. Wait, no wonder everyone wanted to murder this dude. I relayed the story to our crew and they concurred, and this was why no one wanted to help him.

My point is, sometimes when a person is down and out for a reason. Sometimes the world is taking a great big dump on a person for a reason. Sometimes no one wants anything to do with a certain individual and there is a reason. Sometimes a person may be an outcast and it's not just because they are different, it's because they are a great big gaping tool, again there is a reason!

On the flipside, doing the right thing is never a loss of time or energy. You might not always get the thank you or the applause. Officer DePrimo never got the thank you or the applause. He didnt even think anyone was watching. Sure, Jeffrey Hillman sold the boots. But at the end of the day just like any decent person, Officer DePrimo can look at himself in the mirror and know that his side of the street is clean.

Yes, you might not always get a gold star for doing the right thing, but you get peace of mind. And in the scheme of things that is priceless.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Available on Amazon.

Come to my book signing
December 27, 2012
Bethel Park Library
5100 W. Library Ave
Bethel Park, PA

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