About 25 years ago, while working in the constituent office of a New York City state senator, I gave $20 and a gold crucifix to a homeless alcoholic trying to get to a rehab center, or so he claimed.
I knew the cash would probably go to cheap vodka, but the crucifix and a carefully worded note on Senate stationery that I wrapped around it, I hoped, might spur the man to action.
They did. That very night he cut his wrists with the cross (and lived, according to the police officer who found him and dialed the number on my office letterhead the next day).
Some years later, I came upon an unkempt and precariously seated man at the 77th Street and Lexington Avenue subway station, dangling his legs from the train platform at rush hour. There were people around, but no one was doing anything to assist the fellow, which angered me. A train would be coming along any moment, and he definitely was in a position to be struck by it.
So, in a harrumph to the other bystanders, I reached for his outstretched hand to help him up. He gripped my wrist tightly and tried to pull me onto the tracks, which evidently was his plan — a memory kicked back into consciousness by the subway-pushing death this week.
The rest of this column is available at Newsday. Thanks for reading!