While staying in a seedy motel alone with her three small children, a man knocked on this mother’s door and began bothering her with questions about what she was doing there. She was in no mood to deal with a stranger, whose intentions seemed unclear. But then he made his way into the room, where her children were, and everything about her day quickly changed.
Maidelyn Caneda had been dealt a heavy hand of depressing circumstances in life, which lead her to a dank motel where she lived with her three kids, the eldest just 8-years-old. The single mom was homeless with no way to provide for her family. Although the motel was dirty and not very safe, it beat sleeping on the street.
Maidelyn was in the midst of trying to come up with a way to feed her kids that day, who were crying in starvation, right as Officer James Bernat was walking the halls of the motel in search of criminal activity.
Officer Bernat’s path crossed the family’s, and it couldn’t have been coincidental. When he saw that she was living there, not involved in breaking the law like others around her, his heart broke for the woman and her kids, who had nothing. Bernat could relate to the struggle, having seen the same in his parents growing up, who were both Holocaust survivors.
“I remember the stories of my parents and how they suffered, not for anything they did, but who they were,” the concerned cop told WSVN. “As an officer, I see that in other people, and everyone deserves a chance.”
With that compassion in his heart, Bernat gave this homeless family a big chance just as Maidelyn had been feeling alone and anonymous in this world and in her immense challenges.
“At 8 o’clock at night, when your kids are telling you they are hungry and that their stomachs hurt and you have nothing to give them, it’s really, really hard,” the mother explained of her children’s daily fight for food and just simple necessities needed to survive. “When you have to beg people or call people you haven’t spoken to in years, and have doors slammed in your face.”
But Officer Bernat opened the door that had been slammed in her face far too many times to give her what nobody had. The first order of business was a trip to the grocery store. The kind cop gave the family free rein to pick out food to sustain them for days. With this, they wouldn’t have to rely on the food pantry, which often ran out of goods before the family got them after hours of having to wait their turn. But then, he took the good deed much further.
Bernat didn’t just give them a handout, then leave them with the supplies. He did as Jesus would and gave Maidelyn the tools to succeed, so she could continue to feed her family. Officer Bernat got the mother a job at Mr. Green’s Produce, which was the first employment she’s had in four years. Health issues had forced her out of work, and to get hired after so long of being unemployed was a challenge, especially with three kids.
Bernat had one last order of business before parting ways with the Canedas — to get her oldest son Roberto enrolled in school. He signed the child up, and the boy was ready to finally start his first day, which he was so excited for. Maidelyn was moved to tears by the overwhelming generosity this stranger showed, which he didn’t owe her. It was Officer Bernat doing God’s work with resources provided by community donations and a homeless program through the Miami Police Department.
As this mother sobbed, she shared an important word of advice to others facing insurmountable odds against them. “Don’t give up, because here are people like him, like Officer Bernat, that can help you, that will help you, regardless of what you have done in the past, because no one is perfect,” the grateful woman said. “We just have to keep going.”
Contrary to popular and incorrect belief, a cop’s duty is more than writing tickets and making arrests. It’s to serve people too, which is what Officer Bernat did in a huge way.