America is the land of the free, and it’s something that we usually take for granted. The fact that women go out wearing whatever they want, showing off as much skin as they please and offending others with their lack of concern over which size is appropriate for their frames or what they are exposing in public is one we whine about and discuss at length. What we fail to realize, however, is that these women might not dress the way we all deem appropriate – or other women might be too uptight about the way others dress – but we all have the freedom to do that. We have the freedom to get up and choose to wear short shorts or tank tops, or even bikinis at the beach. In many locations across the world, women cannot choose what they wear and they cannot show any skin.
When someone gets upset about some form of self-perceived injustice and takes to the internet to speak up about how they feel, they have the right in America. When someone disagrees with something I have to say in an article, they don’t think twice about emailing me in the heat of the moment and calling me a moron, an imbecile or telling me that the world would be far better off if I were hit by a car and killed on impact (that’s not very nice, by the way). The point is that we have something called freedom in America, and that allows us to dress and say how we feel at any given moment. In many countries, freedom is not something that’s granted to just anyone – even in countries we think might be worth visiting.
That leads me to this; we certainly do have some negative feelings about immigrants and their place in our society. People are often concerned with jobs that could go to Americans being given to those who have entered the country illegally, we tend to be a bit less than kind toward immigrants, and we don’t always give them a chance. Regardless, however, of our personal beliefs regarding those who enter our country form elsewhere; the truth is certain. These people want to come to America to live a better life, to provide for their families and to one day see some sort of success in their lives. It’s what our ancestors did centuries ago when America was discovered, and it’s what people continue to do, and for good reason. This is a great country (not matter how we feel about our current political leadership) and people want to be here. No matter how bad we think things are right now, it’s a lot better than the lives being lead by people in many other countries.
When 26-year-old Sangeeth Wuesinghe and his wife came to America from Sri Lanka, it was to live a better life, but it’s not always easy. Sangeeth was unable to find consistent work, and he worked odd jobs where he could get them so that he and his wife could afford their rent and to put some food on the table. Unfortunately, working odd jobs here and there is not always enough to pay the bills, and that’s what caused Sangeeth to jump a turnstile in the Tompkinsville Station at the Staten Island Railway back in April.
MTA officers watched as the couple approached the turnstile. The wife swiped her card and the husband jumped over. When officers Paul Martino and Christopher D’Onofrio stopped Sangeeth for jumping the turnstile, he missed his train. That’s when he began discussing his situation with the officers. While they might have thought, at first, that they were just dealing with a common criminal trying to avoid paying the few dollars to ride the train, they were quickly reminded that not all people are as criminal as they might immediately seem. It turns out that Sangeeth had no option as his odd jobs were forcing him to choose what he could afford to pay for, and after rent, he was unable to afford two fares; he allowed his wife to go through using a paid for ticket, but he jumped the turnstile.
What really struck the officers who issued Sangeeth a summons, however, was not that he was in a desperate situation, but that he was genuinely upset that he had done something illegal. He wasn’t even upset that he was caught; just that he felt he had no other option in the first place.
“Most people are just sorry they get caught. He was just sorry he did what he did, but he did it because he had no other means,” said D’Onofrio. D’Onofrio was touched by this man and his story, and decided that his job is about more than just catching criminals, it’s about helping those who need it. So he did something pretty spectacular. He called a friend by the name of Dushmantha Premasiri, the manager of the Bolla Market, located just down the street from the station. He asked his friend if they were hiring and explained why he was curious to know.
Explaining that the application process is typically one that occurs online, Premasiri decided that he would just have Sangeeth come in and begin training. It’s been almost two months and Sangeeth is now a full-time cashier at the market, working nearly 60 hours a week. His new MTA police officer friends visit him whenever they get the chance, and all agree that Sangeeth could not be happier with permanent work.
The moral of this touching story is an important one: Anyone has the power to help someone in need. You never lose by giving, and you never feel bad about helping someone who is trying so hard to make a life for him or herself. What these officers did is, sadly, not something that most would do. They went above and beyond their duties and looked past what might be instant judgment by others to learn that sometimes people aren’t breaking laws because they think it’s fun or because they are jerks; they’re doing it out of sheer desperation. The world needs more people like these men.
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