A Routine Grocery Trip Turned Into A Life-Changing Act Of Kindness
The weekly grocery shopping trip is a pretty standard routine for most Americans. A person creates a list of what they need, heads to the store to buy it and that’s pretty much it until the following week, right?
Well, for Memphis, Tennessee resident Matt White, a routine grocery shopping trip would become anything but routine when he encountered a teenage boy in the parking lot. That encounter would eventually result in a life-changing act of kindness that’s all too often lacking in today’s hustle and bustle modern world.
Matt White was just an ordinary guy
Matt is a 30-something guy in Memphis. He had graduated from college and was making his way through the music business as a singer/songwriter. There was nothing out of the ordinary about Matt’s weekly grocery trip.
Kroger was his grocery store of choice. The prices were good, the produce was fresh, and it was in a somewhat upper-class neighborhood in an otherwise poor section of the city. Matt had just paid for his items and was walking out to the parking lot. When…
An encounter with a stranger
As Matt was walking out to the parking lot, a teenage boy began walking with him. The boy didn’t have any grocery bags in his hand, and the clothes he had on weren’t especially nice. It was obvious that he wasn’t at the Kroger to buy a week’s worth of groceries.
As Matt made eye contact with the teen, a barrage of different scenarios flooded his head. Was the teen going to beg for money? Perhaps he wanted directions? Nope, it was something else.
Matt and the teenager strike up a conversation
The teenage boy initiated a conversation with Matt and introduced himself as Chauncy Jones Black. He was 16-years-old and had taken the bus from his home to what he called “the rich people’s Kroger.” Matt was getting by, but he was hardly rich.
Chauncy didn’t waste any time and told Matt that he wasn’t begging for money, but hoping to earn a few quick bucks. He only had an hour before he had to catch the last bus home, but had a proposition for Matt.
Just a bag of doughnuts
The teen was simply hungry and wanted to find a way to earn some food. As Matt would later recall, Chauncy said, “‘If you’ll help me buy some donuts, I’ll carry your groceries to your car.’ And I thought, ‘I can do better than that.’ ”
Matt said he’d never had a proposition like that and said, “In my heart, I screamed a loud ‘yes!’ But to him, I just chuckled and said, ‘yeah dude, we’ll get you some doughnuts.'”
The pair headed back into the store and began shopping
Matt felt bad for the kid. It was obvious that he was hungry and likely didn’t have much. Still, he was intrigued by Chauncy’s simple offer of service and the pair walked back into the store to get that bag of doughnuts.
As they walked, Matt and Chauncy began making small talk and that’s when Matt first began to realize just how different Chauncy’s world was than his own. They came from different backgrounds and somehow life had brought them together… Matt would eventually realize he been presented with an opportunity to make a huge difference.
They got more than simply a bag of doughnuts
Matt could have simply gotten Chauncy that bag of doughnuts, waved goodbye, and he probably would have never seen him again. That isn’t Matt White, though. As the pair chatted, Matt began grabbing more food for the teenager. Cereal, snacks, fruits, some toothpaste, just little things that Chauncy was living without.
The two took an instant liking to each other and Chauncy told Matt about his life. “All the while we talked and he told me how he makes straight A’s in school and is trying to get a job to help his mom pay rent,” Matt said. “This kid was amazing.”
A life of poverty
Chauncy may have been poor, but he was anything but lazy. During their conversation, Chauncy referred to himself as “poor,” but told Matt that he wouldn’t stay that way. He relayed that it was his dream to become a “rich entrepreneur” so that he could give back to the people in his neighborhood and provide for his mother.
Chauncy takes Matt into his world
An empty fridge and an empty home
Matt would tell a local news station that when he drove Chauncy back to his neighborhood and dropped him off at home that he was “truly humbled.” The teenager invited Matt inside to meet his mother and realized just how truthful Chauncy was being when he said there wasn’t any food at home.
“They had two lamps and nothing in their fridge. Nothing.” Unfortunately, the rest of the home was equally upsetting for Matt.
Chauncy introduces his mother, Barbara Black
Matt immediately noticed how polite and gracious Chauncy’s mother was, upon meeting him. She introduced herself as Barbara and dotted on her son as a “good boy.” She told Matt that because of a medical condition, it was difficult for her to move much and this made working or even leaving the house for a simple grocery trip nearly impossible.
The tough life of a single mother
Barbara was the best mother that she knew to be to Chauncy, but she was actually his grandmother. The 61-year-old had legally adopted Chauncy from her daughter when he was just a baby and raised him along with six other children who were by this point grown.
With complications from diabetes, Barbara could no longer work and it was Chauncy who took care of her. “The past few years, Chauncy has been taking care of me,” she would later say. “I couldn’t ask for better.”
Matt knew that something had to change
The groceries were a nice gesture, but they were hardly going to be life-changing. “I just knew I had to do something,” Matt said. “I’m not wealthy, but I live a comfortable life. I saw how he was living and it touched my heart.” Matt thought that there had to be something else he could do for this family and that’s when it hit him…
The spark of an idea begins to take shape
As Matt loaded the last of the groceries into Chauncy’s refrigerator and said his goodbyes, he knew it wouldn’t be the last that he’d see of the teenager. Matt would meet up with Chauncy yet again, this time for some ice cream and more details about the teen and his mother’s life slowly came to the surface.
Barely getting by
When he asked when the last time the teen had gotten a new piece of clothing Chauncy told Matt “probably three years.” The family was barely getting by. “I found out they’d been living like this for years, getting by on Barbara’s disability checks,” Matt said. That was soon about to change though…
Calling on the power of the internet
Matt shared a few details about Chauncy’s situation on his Facebook. It was nothing major, just a way of asking his friends for ideas on how he might be able to help the family he had newly befriended.
Soon enough, the idea of starting a GoFund Me Page took shape. With Chauncy’s permission, Matt put up a few details about the family and a quick video had taken during one of their conversations. Nobody was prepared for what would happen next.
The money comes pouring in
People on the web took notice of Chauncy and Matt’s encounter pretty quickly and it wasn’t long before donations began rolling in. Matt thought that perhaps using the money to buy a lawnmower for Chauncy so he could begin a summer lawn mowing business would be a good idea.
Much to the surprise of both, this Go Fund Me page was about to raise a lot more money than needed for a simple lawnmower.
The post goes viral in a BIG way
Within just a few weeks, Matt’s post on Facebook had been shared on some 14,000 times with over 3,500 comments. People were offering money, clothing, shoes, food, it was really all quite unbelievable.
Not only that, but the Go Fund Me page was now well into the thousands of dollars. Matt and Chauncy were both astounded at the amount of money people had generously donated.
$340,000 worth of kindness
Matt’s post and call to action had spread like wildfire across the internet. Donations were coming in from all over the globe. By the time their story had aired on ABC News, the Go Fund Me was at $250,000. It kept growing though and surpassed an astounding $340,000.
For Chauncy’s mother, it was almost too much to wrap her head around. “I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do,” Barbara said. “Chauncy told me not to cry, but I might break down in tears.”
A new home for the family
Matt told Chauncy that a portion of the money would be used to buy the family a new home. “You’re going to be able to get a house. A nice house and it’s going to be yours,” Matt said.
The Go Fund Me had grown into a movement known as Chauncy’s Chance and it wasn’t long before the teenager was being recognized on the street and getting phone calls from national media outlets.
Was he ready for all that attention?
“It’s so awesome – my life has been completely changed,” Chauncy told People magazine. “I can’t go anywhere now without people recognizing me. They go, ‘Oh, my God, you’re Chauncy!’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ I’m very happy and very grateful to everybody.”
Matt, Chauncy, and Barbara both wanted to make sure that this money could be handled responsibly and would last the Black family for years to come. They contacted a lawyer and accountant to find out how to handle it best so that it would take the smallest tax hit.
A call to help and serve the less fortunate
Matt’s simple gesture of kindness had forever changed the Black family’s lives. “He’s the nicest person I’ve ever met,” would say of Matt in an interview. “Nobody ever cared more than he did.”
For Matt, who is a practicing Christian, caring for those in need is something that he tries to do as much as possible in his life. “The focus of this is not me and what I did, because I really didn’t do anything. I just captured a story and put it online, but our community, Memphis, picked up this family and put them on a platform.”
Look for others in need
The sheer amount of money raised for Chauncy’s Chance is evidence that people care and want to help. Matt said that he hopes people will “look for Chauncys out there.”
Matt and the Black family might both live in Memphis, a city that has seen its African-American community hit hard by crime and poverty, but there are opportunities to help in every corner of the world. You just have to open your eyes to the opportunities out there.