The slogan was printed on the woman’s shirt, which read: “Homeless. The fastest way of becoming a nobody.”
By the year 2020, Officer Michael Rivers had already spent nine years working for the Goldsboro Police Department in North Carolina. During this period of time, he became quite familiar with the faces of the homeless people who lived in his community. As a result, he is now able to recognize them when he sees them on the streets. However, during the course of one week, he noticed a woman whose face he had never seen in the area before, and something about her compelled him to take a closer look. As Rivers drove past her, the woman, who was wearing a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt with a powerful statement written on it, made eye contact with Rivers and responded with a straightforward “hey” as he drove by.
Rivers, however, disclosed in an interview with CNN that he was preoccupied with the brief encounter even after it had passed. Something kept nagging at him to turn around and talk to the woman who was sporting a t-shirt with the words “Homeless. The fastest way of becoming a nobody” written. The 29-year-old man, at last, came to the conclusion that he would revisit the location where he had seen her during his lunch break at work. Rivers explained what prompted her action by saying, “God put it on my heart to get her lunch,” said Rivers. “So I turned around and I asked her, ‘Hey, did you eat today?’ And she said, ‘No.'”
Rivers went to a nearby pizza shop and purchased pepperoni and cheese pizzas. He then sat down next to her on the grass and the two of them engaged in one of the most thought-provoking conversations he has ever had. He said that the conversation that they had was even better than the pizza that they had shared. After exchanging life stories with the homeless woman, who he said identified herself as Michelle, during his lunch break, he came to the conclusion that he and she had something in common. River found out that Michelle has a daughter who is 12 years old, is battling liver disease, and was in foster care. Michelle’s daughter was placed with River’s family.
Michelle also shared with him the news about her son, who is now 23 years old. While the two were talking, her husband, who was also homeless, was standing across the street from them. After lunch together, Michelle and Rivers went their separate ways, and the police officer couldn’t help but reflect on the ways in which his new friend and he are perceived by society in the same way. People who are homeless are frequently stigmatized by society and told they are to blame for their precarious living conditions. Rivers came to the conclusion that society as a whole has a somewhat negative view of law enforcement officers because it concentrates on the “bad apples” in the profession rather than looking at law enforcement officers as a whole.
But, as Rivers pointed out, “homeless people are just people who are down on their luck,” Rivers said. “It can happen to anybody.” As for himself, he revealed that he didn’t set out to be a police officer because he wanted to ruin a person’s day. “I come to work and my method is, ‘Who can I bless today? Who can I make smile?'” Rivers said. “I’m not the one that wants to take somebody’s father or mother away and put them in jail.”
But, as Rivers pointed out, “homeless people are just people who are down on their luck, It can happen to anybody.” As for himself, he revealed that he didn’t set out to be a police officer because he wanted to ruin a person’s day. “I come to work and my method is, ‘Who can I bless today? Who can I make smile?'” Rivers said. “I’m not the one that wants to take somebody’s father or mother away and put them in jail.”
A random bystander took a photo of Rivers and Michelle during their brief encounter, and the woman’s husband, Chris Barnes, later posted the photo to Facebook with the following caption: “Cassie was out on her lunch break and observed Goldsboro’s Finest enjoying lunch with a homeless person. 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.” Ironically, responses to the post vouched for Rivers’ comments about society’s perception of police officers. “One thing I need to say about this, don’t give the Goldsboro police department credit for what one officer did, his heart led him to this woman, not his uniform,” wrote Facebook user Austin Wallace.
During this time, another user by the name of Donna Clark wrote: “Officers get such bad press all the time but many are good, caring men just like this young man. God bless sir.” The photo eventually reached the eyes of Police Chief Michael West, who applauded Rivers for his good deed, saying: “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. I’m very fortunate to have Officer Rivers in our department.”