On YouTube, user Hammy TV often posts videos of social experiment ‘pranks,’ like reactions to dropping fake poo in a swimming pool or how an Uber driver reacts when their ‘pregnant’ passenger goes into labor.
Hammy TV’s most popular video by far though, which was just posted on October 5, has over 3.6 million views not because of its humor, but because of a simple act of kindness shown by a man who had lost nearly everything.
It’s what that man has since received in return that makes his story even more inspiring.
The video opens with creator Ryan Hamilton describing the simple premise of his social experiment – pretending he’s stranded with a flat tire on the side of the road, and waiting to see who will stop to help him.
After about two hours of waiting, a man named Eric pulls up in his truck and steps out to lend a hand. Clearly the victim of some type of trauma, Hamilton learns from Eric how – after waking to his home burning down around him in June – Eric tried to go upstairs to save his dog, but was overcome by smoke and passed out.
As the two men talk, Eric notes that he wanted to come back and help Hamilton after seeing him ‘stranded’ on the way to a physical therapy session earlier in the day, explaining that “everybody needs a little help here and there.”
At that point Hamilton lets Eric know about the social experiment and the hidden cameras, insisting that Eric – who loves video games – let Hamilton buy a new Playstation for the kind stranger.
Since the YouTube video has come out, however, that number has jumped to more than $160,000 in just a few days. The page – known as Eric’s Angels – was set up by Eric’s aunt, Vilma Crowley.
Out of all the comments on the GoFundMe page, perhaps this is one of the most moving:
“Eric, We have never met. I recently medically retired from the Army. 5 years ago in Afghanistan I stepped on an IED trying to save a comrade. He suffered a concussion, and I lost both of my legs, my backside, tailbone and more. 11 months later my wife left.
I fought for custody of my daughter and won. I got a full time job as soon as I medically retired. I live most of my life in a wheelchair, but I’m still living it. I game, I swim, I go shooting, I do a lot of things… but even as much as I’m doing, I know I can always do more for others.
People like you are far and few in between. We need more like you. When you do good for others, it should and often does come right back around to you. You’re an amazing man, and I hope you get every bit of help you need to get it all back. It’s hard, and it’s heartbreaking. Believe me I know. Don’t give up.”
The story seems to stand as proof that, for all the negatives associated with social media, it can also inspire compassion in strangers and truly make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.