Mike Jensen

Michael Jensen is the former publisher of the Standard Democrat in Sikeston, Missouri.

Poverty can't be solved only through charity

An Internet photo went viral last week showing a New York police officer giving a $100 pair of boots to a supposedly homeless man on the streets of New York.

The photo came just in time for the holiday season and provided a classic Christmas tale of helping those less fortunate.

Police officer Larry DePrimo was hailed as a modern-day hero for his generous assistance to someone homeless on the mean streets of New York.

But four days later, the homeless man was back on the streets -- this time again barefoot and without the boots given just days earlier.

Jeffrey Hillman, the homeless man, said he "hid" the shoes because "they are worth a lot of money."

However, many suspect he might have sold the shoes for whatever reason.

Let's accept the possibility that Hillman suffers from mental illness or some addiction that places him on the streets.

For that issue alone, he should receive medical attention.

But Hillman took the conversation to a new level when he said he wants "a piece of the pie" because his photo was used without his permission.

Nothing ruins the Christmas spirit like an ungrateful "victim."

There's a larger lesson in this holiday story. And it's a lesson about society and the countless ways we try to help those less fortunate.

The police officer -- like many of us, perhaps -- tried a selfless act of kindness on a total stranger. The officer sought no attention, no thanks and absolutely nothing in return.

Simply "giving" something to those in need may solve an immediate problem. But it rarely has any long-term positive impact.

The homeless man is like so many others who also want "a piece of the pie" with no effort on their part. In an act of total arrogance or total insanity, he ignores the generosity shown to him and instead plays the "victim" for even more.

Society needs to understand that poverty cannot be solved by simple charity. If we provide constant and consistent handouts, there is no incentive to change your circumstances.

In short, we all know there is a difference between a handout and a hand up. You know, "teach a man to fish, etc."

Jeffrey Hillman was given a break from a generous stranger. And he blew it.