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Reddit just went all out to help an elderly war veteran whose hamster died

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:39 IST

It's been a dismal few days since Donald Trump was elected president of the US. His victory was one for bigotry, racism, aggression, misogyny, sexism, ignorance and insensitivity. While Hillary Clinton was far from the most likable candidate, the choice of Donald Trump seemed to be an affirmation that humanity's goodness was an illusion.

What's happened since - violent protests, racial attacks, bullying and fear-mongering - seem to reaffirm that. But, before you buy into the notion that humanity's goodness is a thing of the past, check out this story of how hundreds of strangers on the internet came together to help out a depressed, broke, war veteran.

It began with a video...

It all started with a Youtube video. In the video, William Roeben, an elderly Youtuber who usually makes reaction videos or let's play gaming videos, is inconsolable. Through sobs and tears, he just about manages to get across the news that one of his hamsters, Patches, is dead. It's a video that's heartbreaking, even in its simplicity.

The depth of his sorrow isn't any mystery to most pet owners, but it's William's story that really puts his loss into perspective. William is not just any old man, but a man with a long list of struggles that he is battling.

He is a disabled, former United States Air Force veteran who lost his wife to complications stemming from her earlier struggles with cancer. In a post on his GoFundMe page, Roeben mentions how his life fell apart after his wife's death.

Roeben is a disabled, former United States Air Force veteran who lost his wife and is battling depression.

"My life has fallen apart financially since then and my physical condition has been terrible for the past 10 years. I have fibromyalgia, a bad back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, neuropathy in my feet and lower legs, gout, and more; I can barely take care of myself. I am unable to work due to my physical conditions and the terrible depression that I am fighting against," he writes.

Worse still, Roeben had his house seized by a mortgage company and now lives in a small room partitioned off in a garage with no place to sleep, store or cook food, and no toilet.

His hamsters, as it turns out, were his main source of company and happiness. With a story like that, it's not hard to see how it could strike a chord with people. But no one, least of all Roeben, was expecting what would happen next.

Reddit jumps in

The response to Roeben's loss began with a simple plea shouted out into the vast and populated Reddit universe:

This translated to over 1,500 comments in the video's comment section consoling him.

"This older man makes honest and enjoyable reaction videos everyday. But he can't even afford a bed to sleep on and is confined in one room with only his hampsters (sic) to keep him company. Today one died, and I'm hoping Reddit can give him some support!", read a post by redditor patronuschild.

The post linked to Roeben's hamster video and it evidently touched enough hearts because it immediately skyrocketed to the top of Reddit's main page. This translated to over 1,500 comments in the video's comment section consoling him.

But, as if it weren't already special enough that faceless strangers from the internet were attempting to console this poor, old man, the internet wanted to do more. Touchingly, despite his economic situation, the only thing Roeben asks for in his videos is postcards and keychains. However, someone on Reddit also posted a link to his GoFundMe page, which is where things really took off.

In the last few hours, Roeben's GoFundMe page has been deluged with donations. A campaign he'd started almost two years ago was suddenly brought to life, receiving donation after donation, some with messages of support, others anonymous and nameless. All for a man none of the donors knew beyond his video.

At present, the total is up to over $33,000, a $6,000 dollar increase from an hour ago and things don't seem to be slowing down. The donations have come from all over, with donors as far spread as Finland and other parts of Europe pitching in to help out.

In a time where everything seems to be going to absolute shit, Roeben's story offers no small measure of respite from the evils that plague our timelines and, indeed, the world. It shows that despite what current events may indicate, human kindness is widespread and that there is hope for a brighter future.

First published: 11 November 2016, 7:39 IST
Ranjan Crasta @jah_crastafari

The Ranjan (Beardus Horribilis) is a largely land-dwelling herbivorous mammal. Originally from a far more tropical habitat, the Ranjan can now be found wandering the streets of Delhi complaining about the weather, looking for watering holes and foraging for affordable snacks. Mostly human, mostly happy and mostly harmless, the Ranjan is prone to mood swings when deprived of his morning coffee. Having recently migrated to the Catch offices, he now inhabits a shadowy corner and spends his time distracting people and producing video content to distract them further.