This video popped up in a Facebook news feed today. The woman who reposted it is a kind and intelligent woman. I have no truck with her, but I think the people who concocted this little swirl of fiction are immoral, disingenuous, ugly.
To save you from wasting the six and a half precious minutes that I did watching this piece of soppy cinematic saccharine, I will give you a short synopsis. After all, you can never get those minutes back.
The premise is that this boy, about 11 or 12, is huddled in freezing temperatures in a ripped shirt and ripped jeans and no shoes on a midtown Manhattan sidewalk with a bit of cardboard and a garbage bag. About ten feet away from him, a neatly dressed man is sitting on the sidewalk.
We are supposed to believe that this kid sat on this sidewalk, crying and shivering for two hours while New Yorkers streamed past him.
Finally, the neatly dressed man approaches him, hunches down on the sidewalk with him, and gives him his coat. The man tells the boy that he is homeless too.
Then two dudes come up, tell the neatly dressed man that the boy’s not homeless, he’s their little brother, but they’re really touched by what he did so here’s five hundred bucks.
Sorry, no, this does not pass the sniff test.
The two guys are from “Ock TV”, a Youtube channel better known for taping “pranks.” The people involved in this segment were all actors. (You can see the same woman pass through several times in different coats.) The “homeless man” is not homeless. The kid is certainly not homeless. And this little scene did not play out on the streets of New York for two hours.
Two hours would not pass without a cop passing by, or without someone calling the police. That’s a Lane Bryant store they’re sitting outside. Think that every woman coming and going in and out of that store for two hours is going to overlook a kid moaning and writhing on the sidewalk?
Of course not. Would everyone stop? No, probably not, but many if not most, would.
It’s very tired, this trope of the “noble homeless” and the disgustingly unaware masses. Some homeless people are altruistic, some are not. They are not, as a group by their circumstances, more noble than the rest of us.
Nor are the people of Manhattan an insensitive teeming mass. People do stop to help. One afternoon in Tribeca, I took a bad step on a piece of uneven pavement, twisted my ankle and fell on the street. Several people stepped forward to offer assistance. It is simply not believable that a child would be huddled on the sidewalk for more than a minute or two before someone offered him aid.
The daughter of old friends panhandles her way around the country– part of a youth movement called “traveling kids” or “train hoppers.” . She happened to be at home this summer when we were visiting her folks. On that Sunday afternoon she and her boyfriend made seventy-five dollars panhandling for two hours on the streets of Seabrook, New Hampshire. People panhandle because it they get a return for their effort.
People help other people because that is human nature. The best part of being human, the most Christ-like of Christian behavior is to love one another.
Despite its appearance on the pious website “Faith Tap”, this video is not Christian. It’s makers fail at Christianity 101. (They’re not too great at filmmaking either.)
This video has been shared via Facebook 99,000 times. More than three million people have “liked” it. I wonder how many of those sent money to these guys?
The people who passed by this child on the sidewalk were directed to do so. They are actors. They’re not deserving of your contempt, they probably didn’t even make scale for this.
Reserve your disgust for the young men who produced this tired old homily. They are playing you, they are manipulating your sense of sympathy and outrage to line their own pockets. Remember, we are better than that. We are kinder, we are gentler and on the whole, we look after each other.