Out of all the Christmas miracle stories we've written about in the last month, this is by far my favorite. Sure it was heart warming to hear about NFL player Andre Johnson buying $16,000 worth of toys for a bunch of underprivileged kids in Houston. Of course I loved the stories of people paying off layaway balances at their local Walmart and Toys R Us. And who could forget the homeless guy in England who offered his only money in the world, roughly $5 in coins, to a young woman who had lost her wallet and couldn't get home? The young woman ended up raising thousands of dollars from random strangers so her "homeless hero" could get a new apartment. But I really think the story you are about to hear tops them all…
Here's how it all began: Last week a YouTube prankster named Josh Paler Lin set out to see what would happen if he walked up to a random homeless person and gave him $100 cash. He was literally planning on titling the video "How Does a Homeless Man Spend $100?" And judging by his previous prank videos, "Sex in a Public Bathroom", "Speaking Chinese With Random Girls", "Mafia Murder Prank" and "Baby Kidnapping Experiment", Josh was undoubtedly expecting his homeless subject to spend the $100 in a totally insane and frivolous way. Like a carton of cigarettes, 100 Slim Jims and a keg of beer… all for himself.
Josh set out to find a subject to conduct his $100 homeless experiment and soon found a man standing at the entrance of a Los Angles freeway who identified himself as Thomas. Thomas explained he is just out there trying to make enough money to get something to eat. The whole scene is being filmed by a hidden camera man in the distance. Josh explains that he wants to help Thomas out and proceeds to fiddle through his wallet as if he only has a couple dollars to give. He then hands over a crisp $100 dollar bill. Thomas is visibly stunned. Actually on the verge of tears. He doesn't even feel comfortable taking the money. After being ensured that this was not a mistake, Thomas shakes Josh's hand and promises to use the money in a good way. Even several minutes after Josh had left, Thomas can be seen shaking his head, in utter disbelief.
At this point Josh runs away, almost giddy that it went down so well. He and the cameraman then follow Thomas as he packs his stuff up from the corner and walks a few blocks into the neighborhood. To their delight, Thomas basically walks straight into a liquor store. Typical hobo!
This is exactly what Josh predicted. Hilarity is about to ensue, right?! Thomas is probably gonna walk out of that store with a handle of Vodka, $50 worth of lottery tickets, a dozen jelly donuts and a 30 pack of Natty Ice, right??!! Or maybe a case of Colt 45, 8 hot dogs, a carton of Virginia Slims, and a stack of adult magazines, like a homeless Homer Simpson on bender. RIGHT???!!!
As it turns out, Thomas might be the best example ever of why you should never judge a book by its cover. When Thomas emerged from his $100 shopping spree, he was indeed holding what looked like a half dozen of those standard-issue black liquor store plastic bags. Probably filled to the brim with dozens of mini Jack Daniels bottles, RIGHT??!!
Josh and the cameraman follow Thomas as he walks out of the liquor store, crosses a street and wanders into a local park. Must be party time! Thomas the Tank! Thomas the Tank! It's so good when it hits your lips! Oh man this is gonna be the best prank video in the history of youtube!
Well as you may have ascertained by now, Thomas didn't buy liquor or cigarettes, or Slim Jims or lottery tickets at that store. He bought food. Food that he then proceeded to give away to other homeless people at the nearby park. Homeless people who he had never met before.
After seeing his prank backfire in the most unexpected way possible, Josh was ashamed and embarrassed. He had no other option but to reveal himself to Thomas and explain what had been going on. Fortunately Thomas wasn't upset. Thomas explained that he had been homeless for around four months. He had to quit his job to take care of his parents who were both sick, one with cancer and the other with kidney failure. They couldn't afford all of their medical bills and needed Thomas to help them with basic care. Tragically, both parents ended up dying, at which point Thomas was forced to sell off their condo to cover all the outstanding bills. In his own words, Thomas explains his turn of bad luck and how it can happen to anyone:
"There's a lot of people that are just victims of circumstance and they didn't go homeless because they're lazy or … it could be a divorce, one thing leads to another and the man sells his boat, his home, everything, and all of a sudden he finds out he's got no money. There's a lot of good people that are homeless."
Here's the full video of everything that went down:
Make Way For A Christmas Miracle
If you think the story stops there, you are in for a treat! Understandably, Josh was feeling a little bit of shame for his ill-conceived prank. He was also feeling serious sympathy for Thomas, who was clearly an amazing human being that suffered a few too many sudden setbacks. So to make up for his transgression, Josh launched an indiegogo fundraiser.
Titled "Help Thomas Get a Fresh Start!", the indiegogo page detailed the story of everything that you just read. The fundraiser set out to raise $10,000 in 30 days. That money would be used to help Thomas either get his family condo back or a find new place he could call home, and help him get on track with a job.
The campaign was launched late last night (December 22). Less than 24 hours later, that $10,000 goal has already been obliterated. When I started writing this article an hour ago, the fundraiser had already raised $28,000. I just refreshed the page and it's now at $35,365!!! And there are still 29 days left of fundraising! How incredible is that??? If you don't believe in Christmas miracles by now, then I don't really know what to say. You might actually be Mr. Grinch.
***Update*** As of December 24 at 4:30pm, the fundraiser has raised $77,414!
If you would like to contribute to the Help Thomas Get A Fresh Start campaign, I'm embedding the necessary information from indiegogo below: