A photo of the pair sharing lunch goes viral.

So many of us are one illness, job loss, or life-altering event away from losing our homes.

People who don’t have a home and live on the streets don’t do so by choice, but often because of a hand that life has dealt them. It can be hard to forget that in the moment, though, and unfortunately, it can also be easy to get down on yourself when things go wrong.

That’s why the actions of this police officer have warmed up hearts around the world.

A Routine Drive By

woman and a police officer sitting on the ground and eating pizza

Officer Michael Rivers had been with the Goldsboro Police Department in North Carolina for nine years when he came across a homeless woman he had never seen before, reports CNN. He was doing his routine tour around the community, but something about this woman stood out to him: her shirt.

“Homeless. The fastest way of becoming a nobody,” it read.

The message broke the officer’s heart, and he made eye contact with the woman through his open car window. He said hello and drove away, but deep down, he knew he had to go back.

“God put it on my heart to get her lunch,” he told the publication. “So I turned around, and I asked her, ‘Hey, did you eat today?’ And she said, ‘No.’”

Lunch Companions

That did it for Rivers, so he drove to the nearest pizza joint and returned later with pepperoni and cheese pizzas. He got out of the car and sat down on the grass next to her, and they shared some slices. Even more importantly, Rivers took the time to have a conversation with the woman and get to know her.

It turned out her name was Michelle. She had a 12-year-old daughter who is battling liver cancer and is in foster care. She also had a 23-year-old son. Her husband, meanwhile, was also homeless. “Homeless people are just people who are down on their luck,” Rivers told CNN. “It can happen to anybody.”

For the next 45 minutes, Michelle and Rivers broke bread and exchanged life stories. It was a super sweet moment that a passerby captured with a photo. Later, the witnesses posted it on Facebook, where it got thousands of likes and shares.

“Law enforcement does so much for our community, with a lot of it going unnoticed,” a man named Chris Barnes wrote. “We see you, Goldsboro P.D. Keep up the good work.”

People Are More Than Their Circumstances

That day, Rivers realized he and Michelle had more in common than he thought. She was used to being misperceived because of her homelessness, while Rivers feels people often have a negative reaction to him because of what he does for work.

It’s a good reminder to all of us that people are so much more than their circumstances, and it’s important to get to know someone for who they are rather than where they live or what they do for a living. The sooner we can throw away preconceived notions, the quicker we’ll form real connections with others.

So the next time you see someone on the street and feel the urge to help them out, giving them money, clothes, or a hot meal is, of course, nice. But depending on the situation, it can also be important to have an actual conversation with that person. Because at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to feel seen?