The other evening we were walking from a London metro back to our hotel. As we came to a corner there was a homeless couple camped out under an overhand, cardboard carefully laid down, the woman ensconced in layers upon layers of blankets, the man standing, pacing, cold, dirty and tired. As we approached them we had to cross a street - this wasn't a t-bone street, but one that approached from an angle. Suddenly there was a man behind me - he had rounded the corner and seemed to appear out of no where, but he'd been walking in his silent soled creeper police shoes (creeper as in the crepe shoe sole that was so popular decades ago, not meaning the police officer was a creeper).
He caught me unaware and for a moment I was uncomfortable, sandwiched, in close quarters, between the homeless people and the beat officer. In an instant that discomfort was gone.
In a very gentle tone, with a voice full of genuine care and concern, the officer asked the man how he was doing. The man responded, resignation to his situation coming through although his words did not, and the officer continued the conversation, asking him if he had what he needed, if he'd had something hot, was adequately equipped, etc.
I was impressed.
He wasn't there to round them up and drive them away, he didn't treat them like the scourge of the earth, less than human creatures or anything like that - he spoke to them with the care and concern that people should have for those who are struggling and are not as fortunate as we happen to be in any given moment. Despite his troubles, he was treated with dignity and respect. The officer hailed him with compassion, not belittlement, and in that instant the officer and the man on the street were equals, two men talking over a cigarette, one momentarily sharing his struggles with a comrade who was there to listen and lend support.
In that moment I wholeheartedly loved that police officer.