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Monday, July 7, 2014

Thousands in Houston Ignore Man As He Begged For Help On Roadside

I'm dying but you don't care. Source
July 7, 2014 - More than 30,000 people in Houston, Texas ignored a fellow American as he pleaded for help on the side of the road during the Fourth of July weekend. Thomas, a 59-year old homeless man, held a sign clearly indicating that he needed help.

He stood nearly motionless in the hot sun for about nine hours each day at a busy intersection in a wealthy neighborhood. Friday through Sunday, he held out hope that somebody would care enough to help a fellow human being with small donations cash, food or water. Few gave, but many were generous with dirty looks.

What he got instead was cold indifference from thousands of uncaring Houstonians, many driving luxury vehicles on their way to celebrate America's birthday on Friday, July 4.

On Sunday, July 6, thousands passed Thomas on their way to and from church. Fewer than a dozen people helped with bags of food, bottles of water and some cash. According to Thomas, "roughly one in 2,000 drivers give anything. I've actually counted a few times."

"I timed it and counted cars," Thomas said. "An average of 30 cars stop at this red light. The signal changes about every minute, so that's about 1,800 cars an hour. That's over 14,000 over eight hours. Sometimes I'll stand here for 90 minutes without anybody giving me anything. Most people pretend to ignore me. Honestly, I think they'd deliberately ignore me even if I was on my back clutching my chest."

Many of the cars stopped with a few feet of Thomas. He said that "it's amazing how many people act like I'm invisible." He said that drivers who are alone in their car "often grab their cell phones and pretend they're on a call. I've seen some holding the phone upside down, they were in such a hurry to act busy as an excuse to not interact with me." Women," he said, "suddenly decide they need to fix their makeup." Those with a passenger in the car often begin a very animated conversation, sometimes pointing at something as if they're talking about it."

"I drive a Mercedes, dammit."  Image Source
The behavior of drivers seems to correlate to car types, said Thomas, but not as one might expect. "Drivers of the most expensive cars are usually the cheapest people. I get a lot more donations from working class Black Americans driving Fords than I do from rich folks driving Mercedes."

He notes that there are exceptions. "Now and then a nice person in a Mercedes or some other high-end luxury car will give me a dollar, but put that in perspective with the blue collar person who gives a dollar." In general, he says, the more expensive the car, the less likely it is that they will help. "A lot of the rich folks ignore me, but many who do glance at me look at me like I'm a bug or something."

"A lot of wealthy people hate the poor," said Thomas. "That's no secret. And my own philosophy is that nobody owes me anything. But a lot of these people give money to charities that claim to help the poor and homeless only because it gives them a nice tax deduction. So they drive past me thinking hey, I gave to United Way, or some other organization, and I don't want to deal with this guy. And I won't be able to deduct anything I hand to him. This is a shame because much of the money they give to big charities goes to pay six-figure salaries and operational costs, not to feed people who urgently need food."

Do Americans care about other Americans? "Some do, but most don’t if you judge by my experience on the streets of Houston," Thomas said. "I mean, on the Fourth of July thousands didn't give a damn about a fellow American pleading for a little help. And I'm sure that was happening to dozens of other homeless guys around Houston."

What about religious people? "Hard to say," said Thomas, who says he is Christian. "You can't always know who is or is not Christian. But most of the cars with crosses hanging from their rear view mirrors ignore me too, especially on Sundays. I guess they figure they gave at church. I think they'd rather give to enrich the church than interact with a homeless man, as Jesus would have done. I see priests, wearing their collars, stop right next to me and act like I'm not there." Thomas notes that he gets donations from Muslims, Hindus and even from people with atheist bumper stickers. "I don't think you need to be religious to feel compassion for a fellow human being," he said.

Thomas says he barely made it through the holiday weekend. Less than 10 people each day gave him anything, most of which were only a dollar. "The occasional five dollar bill really makes a difference," he said, "and to be fair there are some wealthy folks who help. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I'll only have a few dollars but a nice person will hand me a ten or twenty from a luxury car. But that's rare. I've gotten more tens from old Chevys than from new BMWs."

"On the Fourth of July," he said, "I had more donations from non-Americans than from Americans. Poor Mexicans in pickup trucks are more likely to give me a buck than a guy in a new Porsche."

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