Not What She Was Expecting
She was well aware that her profession wasn’t one of the most honorable, but that didn’t stop her surprise when she saw the officer striding toward her. Her eyes widened when she noticed the man walking behind him, it was the same man she had sent away earlier.
She took a deep breath and pinched her eyes shut as her heart began to race. When the officer finally reached her, he slapped his hands flat on her desk and leaned in toward her. He looked at her with a straight face and made a demand that made her eyes widen in disbelief.
Just A Job
While working at the pawnshop downtown, Alicia Danielle thought she had seen it all. She had seen the desperation and greed in people’s eyes as she counted out the dollar bills behind the till after a big sale. She had seen a mother’s heart breaking as she pawned off her last family heirloom.
She hardened her heart and got on with it. Without this job, she didn’t know where she’d be.
Alicia had been in the business for so long that she could read a man’s intentions just from looking at his face.
The pawnshop attracted a strange cross-section of people from all over town, but Alicia found that most people who frequented the pawnshop could be placed into two categories: the desperate down-and-out, and the vultures that hovered close behind, looking to score a deal. However, the officer who confronted her that day left her completely blindsided.
Alicia had gotten to know the regulars who came in over the years, and she had them all pegged. She knew which ones would want to haggle over rare antiques and which ones would pay full price — no questions asked.
It was a small town, and she never forgot a face. So, when she saw the unfamiliar man walk through the door, she was right to keep a close eye on him.
A New Face
Alicia took her place at the cash register, but her instincts went into overdrive when the stranger made a beeline toward the back of the shop. Her finger hovered over the panic button underneath the counter, but it did nothing to calm her nerves.
She knew that, if anything should happen, it would all be over before the police even arrived. But the last thing she expected was for the policeman to take the man’s side.
The Squad Car Arrives
Alicia narrowed her eyes as she focused on the monitor. She watched the man milling out of sight again in the security camera’s feed. He was wearing a long coat, and his hands were shoved firmly in his pockets.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t focus on him for long. While she had been distracted, a line of irate people had suddenly formed in front of the counter. Reluctantly tearing her eyes away, she failed to notice the squad car sidling into the parking lot out front.
Alicia’s eyes periodically flew to the screen, searching for the suspicious man as she rang up purchase after purchase. She quickly spotted him again, loitering behind the snaking line of customers.
Alicia couldn’t believe her luck — the store was the busiest it had been all year. But the man didn’t join the line. Why was he hanging back? She quickly dealt with her customers and waited for the man to make his move.
Finally, after the lunchtime rush had passed and the tide of customers had left, the man slowly approached the counter. Alicia couldn’t hide the look of relief on her face when she realized that he actually wanted to purchase something.
She assumed it would be a straightforward transaction: she’d ring up his items, process payment, and then he’d leave. But she was wrong.
The man gingerly placed a pair of secondhand shoes on the counter. She rang them up and told him the amount, and he handed her his debit card.
But she shouldn’t have relaxed her guard just yet. As Alicia punched the numbers into the card terminal and handed it to him, the man began to act suspiciously again.
A Defining Moment
Alicia looked down at the man’s feet, then back up to his face. The man was clearly nervous — as if he knew something terrible was about to happen.
He keyed in his pin number and bit his lip. He crossed his fingers, as if he was hoping for good luck. He already knew what was about to happen. But when it did, all hell broke loose.
The man passed the terminal back to Alicia and held his breath. But he couldn’t stop the inevitable from happening.
His card was declined. Looking visibly upset and angry, he shoved his hand in his pocket when Alicia gently asked him if he had any other way to pay. But this strange interaction was far from being over yet.
The man informed Alicia that he had no cash and no other cards on him, so she had to ask him to return the shoes, which he did. Then, he stormed out of the store.
Alicia couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, but this wasn’t a charity store. Little did Alicia know, she was going to see the man again very soon… and he wouldn’t be alone.
After the man had left the store, Alicia was again overwhelmed by customers. She didn’t have time to reflect on what had just happened.
But when she looked up and saw the policeman hanging back with the man who had tried to purchase the shoes not half an hour ago, she froze. Was she in trouble?
What Did They Want?
Alicia tried not to focus on what was about to unfold in her store and tried to serve her customers promptly and efficiently.
But she couldn’t help but notice that the man and the police officer seemed to be hanging back on purpose — they weren’t joining the line of shoppers. Did they want to speak to her in private?
Eventually, Alicia had almost rung up and processed all the transactions in the checkout line. That’s when she began to panic. She was all alone in the store and if there was about to be trouble, she’d rather have witnesses.
She was all alone in the store and if there was about to be trouble, she’d rather have witnesses. Alas, it wasn’t long before the second rush hour had ended and she was alone again. Except for the two men.
When the big man in uniform made his way to the register, Alicia felt fear coursing through her veins. What was going on? She studied his face for a clue, but she found none.
“Is everything okay?” She stammered. “Can I help you in any way?” But when the intimidating man slapped his hands on the counter and leaned in, his answer left her completely blindsided.
“No problem, but if you have those shoes still, I’d like to go ahead and purchase them,” said the officer. Alicia couldn’t believe her ears. Was he really doing this?
In all her years of working in that pawnshop, nothing like this had ever happened before. She looked around, dumbfounded. There was nobody else in the store to witness what was happening.
Alicia had noticed that the shoes on the man’s feet were tattered and were full of holes. She visibly relaxed. It was clear what the officer’s purpose in her store was now — he’d come to buy the replacement pair that the man so desperately needed.
It was clear what the officer’s purpose in her store was now — he’d come to buy the replacement pair that the man so desperately needed. But why had he waited for everyone to leave before approaching her?
Not Making A Scene
Alicia quickly realized that neither of the men wanted to make a scene. The officer had calculated his response to coincide with the pawnshop’s customers leaving.
This was because neither of the men wanted attention, on social media or otherwise. The officer genuinely wanted to help the man in his time of need. That’s when Alicia made a decision.
Alicia also wanted to help the poor man, so she told the officer that she would split the cost of the new shoes, and she’d pay for her half out of her own pocket.
She was inspired by the policeman’s kindness and also wanted to pay it forward. The man obviously needed some warm, comfortable shoes.
Sharing Her Story
Alicia shared what she had witnessed that day on Facebook. Often, she felt like there was too much hate, mistrust, and division in the world, but the generous cop had restored her faith in humanity.
What happened that day allowed her to see that it’s the small, unseen acts of kindness that really make a difference.
A Viral Post
“We still have so far to go, but I promise you small acts of kindness like this are what’s going to rebuild trust and faith in our communities,” Alicia wrote.
“I didn’t get the cop’s name but this didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated by me or the customer.” Shortly after Alicia wrote her post, it went viral – garnering more than 1,500 shares and 18,000 reactions. But there was something heartbreaking about the man who needed a new pair of shoes.
A Homeless Veteran
The man who needed a new pair of shoes was, in fact, a homeless veteran. Homeless veterans are people who served in the armed forces but do not have adequate accommodation.
With an estimated 40,000 veterans living on the streets at any given time, America has a huge problem. But why?
Life After Service
Those that sacrificed their lives to serve their country shouldn’t be dealing with homelessness, a lack of medical care, and neglect after they are discharged. For years, the issue of homeless veterans has been largely ignored by the government.
“It’s so heartbreaking. They served our country and America should be taking better care of them. I feel like they’re overlooked,” said Adeline Gonzalez. From Daytona, Florida.
Seeing homeless veterans is always upsetting. It’s difficult to believe that these people were tough and strong-willed at a point in their lives.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for homeless veterans to also be disabled or mentally unstable. And not many people are aware of what former service members experience after their return to civilian life.
For veterans, the transition from service to civilian life is a tough one. Veterans often face PTSD from their experiences on the battlefield.
And they often turn to substance abuse as a way to treat themselves and forget about their problems as they struggle to adapt to their new lives – and this just compounds the issue.
The leading factors thought to lead to homelessness among veterans are PTSD, unemployment, and substance abuse.
Studies have shown that poor mental health among veterans is a common problem, and mental illness is a strong predictor of vets becoming homeless. Some of the biggest challenges U.S. veterans face, however, are social isolation and a lack of support.
Veterans Affairs Backlogs
Another major issue veterans face is a long backlog of claims in Veteran’s Affairs. This means that, even if a homeless veteran tries to get help from the government, they often do not receive it in a timely manner.
While Veteran’s Affairs isn’t harming veterans directly, the lack of consistent and timely help is. The programs through VA only reach around 40% of their intended recipients. So, how do they get help?
What Is Being Done?
While homelessness is a chronic issue across America, Los Angeles seems to be the epicenter. There are around 4,000 homeless veterans in Los Angeles alone.
Decreasing this number is a painfully slow process because more veterans are becoming homeless faster than they can find somewhere to stay. So, what is being done about the problem?
The Housing First initiative’s approach is that providing permanent housing for homeless veterans is a priority. By providing housing for the homeless first, homeless people can then pursue their personal goals and improve their quality of life. And, the initiative is working.
In 2014, Phoenix moved the final group of chronically homeless veterans into housing and effectively solved the problem. Now, other states have been following suit.