Seeing panhandlers on the side of the road is a staple in many communities.
It can be easy to gloss over the weary faces and requests and simply go on with your day without a second thought.
But sometimes, someone just tugs at you. Officer Michael Rivers with the Goldsboro Police Department in North Carolina experienced that earlier this month when he drove by a homeless woman.
At first he did what many would have done — said “hey” as he passed by, and then continued on. But the words on the woman’s shirt pulled at him, and he had to go back.
“Homeless,” her shirt read. “The fastest way of becoming a nobody.”
Refusing to let her remain a nobody, Rivers decided to treat her like a human being.
“God put it on my heart to get her lunch,” he told CNN. “So I turned around and I asked her, ‘Hey, did you eat today?’ And she said, ‘No.’”
A short while later, pizza in hand, the young officer approached the woman — whose name, he discovered, was Michelle — and the two sat and talked for around 45 minutes. He learned that she had two children, one of which was very sick and currently in foster care.
The officer’s kindness would have been kept quiet, just one more kind action escaping the public eye, but a woman passing by noticed and had to take a picture.
“Cassie was out on her lunch break and observed Goldsboro’s Finest enjoying lunch with a homeless person,” a man named Chris Barnes shared on March 11. “Law enforcement does so much for our community, with a lot of it going unnoticed. We see you Goldsboro P.D. Keep up the good work.”
“Looks like Officer Rivers found a great way to spend his lunch break!” the Goldsboro Police Department wrote on their share of the image. “Thank you for sharing this post with us.”
One woman commented on the police department‘s post, saying she, too, had spotted the lovely interaction between the two.
“I saw them eating together,” she wrote. “And he didn’t just sit there for a couple minutes, he sat there and SPOKE to her for at least 20. Treated her like a human and not someone to ignore. Officer Rivers restored my faith in humanity yesterday.”
Even a woman claiming to be Michelle herself commented on the post to express her gratitude.
“This was by far the best day I have experienced since I became homeless,” the woman commented. “Officer Rivers is one (of many) law enforcement officer who is a true blessing to the community that has the privilege to have him on their team. March 11, 2020: the day I was ‘Touched by an Angel.’”
“The circumstances around our job are often an unpleasant call to service, but this picture just shows we’re human like anyone else and any chance we get to serve the community and help people, we take that chance,” Police Chief Michael West told CNN.
“I’m very fortunate to have Officer Rivers in our department.”
Though the meeting has warmed many hearts, for Rivers it’s business as usual.
“I come to work and my method is, ‘Who can I bless today? Who can I make smile?’” Rivers explained. “I’m not the one that wants to take somebody’s father or mother away and put them in jail.”