A heartwarming picture of a US police officer sharing pizza with a homeless person has gone viral.
Officer Michael Rivers of the Goldsboro Police Department in North Carolina was out on the beat when he came across a homeless lady by the name of Michelle he hadn't seen before - a rarity in a town as small as his where he recognised most faces.
"God put it on my heart to get her lunch," the 29-year-old officer told CNN. "So I turned around and I asked her, 'Hey, did you eat today?' And she said, 'No'."
A couple of pepperoni and cheese pizzas later and the two were sat own by the side of the road chatting away, and the moment was caught on camera by passer-by Cassie Lea Parker, whose husband Chris Barnes subsequently shared the photo.
"Cassie was out on her lunch break and observed Goldsboro's Finest enjoying lunch with a homeless person," Chris wrote.
"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." The image has now been reacted to nearly 2000 times and shared over 4000.
Rivers was indeed doing good work. Michelle was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan 'Homeless. The fastest way of becoming a nobody', but the officer spoke to her at length and discovered that she has a 12-year-old daughter who is battling liver disease and in foster care, as well as a 23-year-old son. Her husband, also homeless, stood across the street while the two ate and talked.
Rivers felt that both he and Michelle were perhaps closer in their perceptions of the world than he at first thought they might be. The homeless, he said, are often shunned by society, and criticised for bringing the situation on themselves. He also felt that police officers were viewed negatively, simply focusing on the 'bad apples'.
"Homeless people are just people who are down on their luck," Rivers told CNN. "It can happen to anybody."
As well as catching the public's imagination, the photo has also caught the attention of Rivers' senior Police Chief Michael West, who congratulated his charge on his humanitarian approach to the beat.
"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," West told CNN. "I'm very fortunate to have Officer Rivers in our department."
Featured Image Credit: Credit: Chris Barnes/Facebook
Topics: US News