When you hear about The Free Help Guy, you wonder what the catch is.
He’s hosted a wedding reception for strangers, sourced women to talk about orgasms for a production company, and been hypnotized as a guinea pig for an aspiring hypnotist.
The last time I heard about someone who helped people for free, he lived in the bat cave.
The Free Help Guy wouldn’t give me his name, or many details about himself. He wants to stay anonymous.
But he said he isn’t some rich, reclusive trust fund baby with a guilty conscience. [We can’t confirm this].
But he’s not a hero either — or so he says.
“There’s no such thing as altruism,” he told me. “I honestly do this because it helps me, too.”
When the The Free Help Guy was 27, he was working as a graphic designer in London. It was a job he enjoyed, but didn’t love. Then he had a quarter-life-crisis.
But instead of a splashy vacation or expensive watch, he decided to spend six months helping people he met on the internet… with anything.
He quit his job, and went looking for people to help. He didn’t want to be boxed into giving people one type of help, which ruled out charity volunteering.
So The Free Help Guy posted an ad on Gumtree, the U.K.’s version of Craigslist. He posted that he was available to help — with anything, except money.
“Money makes the world go round but it’s often guilty of complicating things,” he said.
“Without the complication of what costs what and who charges who, there’s an opportunity for far greater openness and honesty.”
The Free Help Guy didn’t expect anyone to answer his ad that day.
“Had I been any one of those few people on the other side of that advert that day, I’d have almost certainly ignored (the post),” he wrote on his website.
But people noticed his ad. And requests poured in.
Some of them were pretty cool.
“The first (help request) was from a couple in Plymouth. They explained they’d offered their spare bedroom to a homeless man who had recently found a job and moved out.
‘Could you help us find someone else who needs a roof over their head?’ they asked him. Then there was Talya, a photographer in the midst of a confidence crisis. She wanted feedback on her work, because she felt her friends’ opinions were biased.
There was a request from a jetsetter who wanted someone to hang out with during a 10-hour layover. Florida-based Ivan reached out for help pitching his business to investors in London. Jenny tweeted him when she found a memory card, and wanted help tracking down its owner.
“Those are some of the unusual requests,” The Free Help Guy said.
But a lot of the time, people just want to talk.
“A lot of people ask for advice, whether it’s elderly people who are lonely or teens who have just been dumped for the first time ever,” he told me. But he tells them that he isn’t a professional psychologist and has no money.
“The majority of time, people know I can’t help them. But they’re so downtrodden or in trouble that their only resource is emailing someone online. The fact of that makes me really sad,” he said.
So he tries to help.
But he got to a point when he realized that he couldn’t do it all alone.
This was when he met Eden, a little girl with a condition called “myoclonus diaphragmatic flutter.” This means she lives with regular seizures.
The Free Help Guy was conflicted, as she violated the rules he used to help people. He couldn’t personally do anything for her; what she needed was money to visit an American specialist.
But he cared about her story. So he approached several journalists about Eden’s situation. Together, they raised $9,250 to send her to the specialist.
It wasn’t that hard, he said. It was a good story and he only had to “hound” the journalists a bit.
After six months he went back to work. But in 2014 he handed in his notice again. He wanted to concentrate on helping people. He re-designed his website – moving off Tumblr — and worked on campaigns to make an active difference.
On YouTube he has two videos. One has 211,307 views, focused on transport access for the disabled. The other has 187,410 views, and raises the point of selective attention; how people only see what they want to, and can miss issues right in front of them.
The Free Help Guy said that people should focus on the people next to them. Not people in other countries or wildly different circumstances. Your community, your neighbors.
“Those people might need it the most,” he said. “Step back, breath, and be there for people.”
It’s good to know that superheroes can be real.