This is a lengthy but interesting article about one of the most interesting people I have ever met. Enjoy!
The Person: Anthony McNeil (Philadelphia, PA)
Image by Gabriel Rodriguez
He screamed and screamed as he ran, yet no one responded. The seconds felt like hours. He began to wonder what would happen if he didn’t survive. He wondered why the gang had chosen to attack him. In those few minutes nothing made sense to him anymore. He could see people looking out of their windows and standing in their doorways watching as the gang surrounded him. He was stuck, he had nowhere to run. He was trapped between the stairway, the wall and the gang behind him. They pummeled him; hit him with anything they could find. He balled himself as tightly as he could and cried for help. Yet the people in the neighborhood, the ones standing in their doorways and staring out of their windows did nothing. They just watched.
It didn’t make sense to him; he couldn’t imagine why not a single one of them had tried to help him.
For the 12-year-old Anthony McNeil, he could easily have lost all hope. If there was ever a good time to give up, this was it. At least he would die with witnesses around (even though they probably wouldn’t testify). Thankfully a man appeared out of nowhere and chased the boys away. Thankfully, there was no permanent physical damage. But he was hurt inside, and over 40 years later, you can still hear the hurt and disappointment when he tells the story. He stood up dusted himself off the ground, shook his head at the neighbors watching him, and walked the rest of the way home. It didn’t make sense to him; he couldn’t imagine why not a single one of them had tried to help him.
Malcolm Gladwell in his book, the Tipping point, talked about the bystander effect, where people do nothing when they witness a crime in public. When in public, according to Gladwell, most people expect others to respond, and when no one responds, they assume that their own personal lack of response is okay. Gladwell argues using the Kitty Genovese story (a lady who was attacked, raped and murdered while her neighbors watched and did nothing) to prove his point that the chance of getting helped is inversely proportional to the amount of people present. Implying that if you are ever in danger, your chances of getting helped are better when there are fewer people around than when there is a crowd. Everyone in the crowd interprets everyone else’s inaction as the norm, making it less likely that anyone will choose to do something different.
But how do you justify letting a 12 year old get beaten to death in front of you?
But how do you justify letting a 12 year old get beaten to death in front of you? Did anyone call the police? Did anyone try to help him — no not anyone in that neighborhood? It’s just another person’s child, they could all hear him, but no one was listening. No one cared enough to listen.
Anthony McNeil is a tall handsome man – not too tall at 6”2’ but tall enough that he finds himself stooping low often when in conversation with others. He has the gait of a basketball player. And in his eyes you can tell that he has had more than his share of problems. When he walks into a room you can see the shadows of a man that once had great dreams but let many of them go. His shoulders are stooped; he is quiet; he observes, smiles and quietly responds. But every now and then you get a glimpse of the vivacious man behind the graying hair and the tired eyes. His laugh engulfs the room and beckons you, enticingly invites you to share in his quiet delight.
When I met Anthony he was working with autistic kids. He had discovered a correlation between the prevalence of autistic tendencies and the child’s diet. He had changed his and his daughter’s diets and had seen marked improvement in their overall physical and mental health. He was healthier and more energetic than he had been in years. He had discovered a secret, the secret to health – The secret that many would kill for, and would pay millions for. And of course he worked hard to get the news out to as many people as he could, to let people know that their diet was killing them, that their lives could be remarkably different if they just changed certain things. But for some reason no one was clamoring over him to hear the secret, no one was offering him millions to know how to eat better, and live fuller, richer lives. No one was listening.
In Greek mythology, there is an interesting tale of Cassandra who was able to trick Apollo into giving her the gift of prophecy, however Apollo not only gave her that gift, but he also cursed her so that no one would ever believe what she said. Cassandra foresaw the destruction of Troy and the Trojan horse that was used. She warned everybody, but no one listened to or believed her. As you can imagine, this gift of prophecy became a source of constant pain and frustration for Cassandra.
So what happened when the autistic child in Anthony’s care started behaving well and getting awards as a model student? Anthony should have gotten awards too. People should have clamored around him to find out his secret – the secret to making even autistic kids sit still, listen and learn. Instead people became “concerned.” They could not believe the results; he must have been hurting the child. He must have been too strict. He tried to tell them the truth, but like the Cassandra myth, they weren’t listening.
Anthony should have gotten awards too. People should have clamored around him to find out his secret – the secret to making even autistic kids sit still, listen and learn. Instead people became “concerned.”
But Cassandra is a myth, and the bystander effect only exists where people choose to let it exist. Where Cassandra gives up, Anthony valiantly continues. When once his passion had been to make money in the financial industry, now his passion is to save lives. Not only does he want to save people from living in miserable health, but he wants their souls saved too. He wants to love people with “that it just don’t make no sense love. No matter what people think say or do love.”
He says it with such passion and fervor that you just have to believe him. Anthony “is a very knowledgeable man… maybe overlooked by many but definitely a good person to know!” says Jolaine, a member of his Church. Anthony “helped me in my relationship with the Lord and never beat me in the head with the Bible.” says Gabe, another member of his church. It often seem like no one is listening, but apparently some people are.
Anthony is a simple man in the highest sense of the word. And it works well for him.
“If I didn’t have to worry about money and people’s opinions,” Anthony said, “I would tell everyone I see the truth.” And he does.
Anthony McNeil resides in Philadelphia, PA where he is still passionately teaching people on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Feel free to contact him at:
City on the Hill Ministries
Anthony McNeil, BBA, MHS, CNHP