How a chance encounter changed a hungry teen’s life forever
Like most people, Matt White makes trips to the grocery store once a week. One night, he was making his way to the store in his hometown of Memphis, Tenn., but in this unusual experience, he would make a highly unusual encounter. White was approached by a total stranger after paying for his groceries – it was a young teenage boy.
He didn’t know it at the time, but that boy had an offer to make him. It was a humble offer of simple implications – at least that’s what the teen thought. But, from that moment on, the lives of the two men would intertwine and change forever.
1. An ordinary evening
Matt White was going about his business one night at a Kroger grocery store when something happened that would change his life entirely. The then-30-year-old music business graduate was going aisle by aisle, picking up the usual goods for his home. It began as a totally ordinary trip to the store.
This particular Kroger was located in an upper-class part of an otherwise poor Memphis, Tenn., area, but White had never experienced anything strange while shopping there. After he paid for his groceries and began to exit the store this time, though, it ended a little differently than he had expected.
2. A mysterious boy
Just as Matt White began to exit the Kroger store, a mysterious teenage boy began to walk toward him. White wondered what the teen wanted. Was he a beggar? Why was he all by himself at the store? He eyed him curiously as he approached, thinking of the possible scenarios in his head.
Then, the boy finally arrived in front of him. Before he even managed to begin to form his words, White noted the look on the teen’s face – a combination of shame and despair. The teen had his attention from the beginning. Who was he, and what did he want?
3. What did he want?
Matt White towered over the sad boy standing before him. Why had he approached him? Well, it turns out the kid was 16-year-old Chauncy Jones Black and he had trekked via bus to what he referred to as the “rich people’s Kroger” in hopes of working for food.
That’s right, Black wasn’t asking for spare change. He was willing to work – to do whatever he needed to do just to eat. Standing before White empty-handed, Black had only an hour before he had to catch the last bus home, where his mother was waiting for him. What would White do next?
4. White said yes
Chauncy Jones Black was visibly hungry. “He looked ashamed, hungry, and broken,” Matt White would later recall of the encounter. The teen asked White if he could work for him – he would do literally anything for a bite to eat, no matter how small the task.
The teen offered to carry White’s groceries to the car in exchange for a pack of glazed doughnuts. “In my heart, I screamed a loud ‘yes!’ But to him, I just chuckled and said, ‘yeah dude, we’ll get you some doughnuts,'” White would later say. But the incident certainly wouldn’t end with a pack of donuts.
5. Black didn’t even have a phone
Matt White felt terrible for Chauncy Jones Black. His mind flooded with thoughts about who he might be, and what led him to such desperate measures. At the same time, White found his approach inspiring. So he asked the teen about his personal life in hopes of learning more.
Apparently, Black and his mother owned very little. They had literally nothing at their house, Black said. He didn’t even have a phone on him – only the bus pass with which he traveled and the clothes on his back. White and Black began walking toward the doughnuts together. The need didn’t know it yet, but he was in for quite the surprise.
6. White had to do more
After Chauncy Jones Black picked out a pack of doughnuts, Matt White felt that he hadn’t done enough. Here was a boy with nothing in his refrigerator at home asking for help – no, offering to work for it – and White was going to send him away with a box of sugary dough?
Technically, it might not have been his responsibility to feed someone else’s kid. But there was something about Black that made him want to help – he seemed like such a good kid. No, White thought. Not today. Today, he was going to do something good for a teen in need.
7. Spontaneous shopping spree
As the two continued to chat – doughnuts in hand – Chauncy Jones Black quickly realized they weren’t walking toward the cash register. Matt White was leading them through different aisles, initiating what seemed to be a full-blown shopping spree. Black couldn’t believe his eyes as the man who had agreed to buy him only doughnuts began reaching into shelves for more.
White began loading the cart with common household goods – everything from cereal and Cheetos to fruit, pasta, peanut butter, milk, soap, and toothbrushes. Black was shocked. It must have been hard for him to process what was happening. The two kept talking throughout it all, and White learned something about Black that warmed his heart.
8. A teen role model
As Matt White and Chauncy Jones Black walked through Kroger, White inquired about the teen’s personal life. How was school? How was his mother doing? “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. This kid was amazing,” White later recalled.
Even in his precarious state, Chauncy Jones Black didn’t intend to remain stuck in the cycle of poverty. He was a boy that made it a habit of setting ambitious goals and working tirelessly toward them. And Black was indeed full of surprises, his new friend would soon discover.
9. Poverty didn’t prevent Black from aiming high
In his conversation with Matt White, Chauncy Jones Black kept referring to himself as “poor,” the musician recalled. It’s not as though White hadn’t understood already that Black came from a family of little means, but it grabbed his attention because the teen followed up with quite possibly the most inspirational things he had ever heard.
The teen’s goal was to become a wealthy business owner so that he could help other people in his neighborhood – and even buy them groceries, like White! It was clear Black greatly appreciated White’s gesture of kindness. But the story didn’t end there, as White began to feel a sense of attachment to the boy.
10. Was it goodbye?
After Matt White paid for Chauncy Jones Black’s groceries, the teen thanked him. His bus would be coming soon, Black said, and so it was time for him to go. He glanced at White gratefully and began heading toward his stop. The boy couldn’t have possibly predicted what was about to happen next.
As White watched him – well, he realized he couldn’t. White couldn’t watch the poor kid get on that bus again with all those bags of groceries, so he offered to drive him home and deliver the goods himself. But what he was about to see was just too much for his heart to handle.
11. ‘He wasn’t kidding’
“I gave [Chauncy Jones Black] a ride home so that he didn’t have to take the bus and when we got to his house I was truly humbled,” Matt White wrote. When the two arrived at the family’s residence, White couldn’t believe his eyes. It turns out the teen wasn’t exaggerating when he said he and his mother didn’t have anything at home.
The Black household was totally barren. Chauncy and his mother didn’t have proper beds – they were sleeping on pads made out of sleeping bags. “They had two lamps and nothing in their fridge. Nothing,” White emphasized. Something else that White observed in particular during the visit haunted him.
12. His mother was sick
After Matt White arrived at Chauncy Black’s residence in South Memphis, he was also taken aback by the boy’s mother, Barbara. She was so sweet and gracious, and she showed genuine appreciation for what White had done for her son. She also looked fragile and seemed to be in pain.
White quickly noticed something wasn’t right – Barbara has a condition that makes it hard for her to get around on her own, and she shakes. It was clear to White that she loved her son and wished she could take better care of him. It was when White realized that, while all he had done for the teen and his mother was great, it still wasn’t enough.
13. Filling the fridge
Before Matt White could do anything else for the Black family, there were groceries to unpack. The look in Chauncey Black’s eyes totally changed as he and White unpacked the food and stuffed it into the kitchen. “He looked like a kid again,” was how White later described it.
Now that the Black family’s refrigerator was finally full, the time had come for White to say goodbye and go home. The singer/songwriter gave Chauncy and Barbara each a big hug and headed out. Little did either of them know, it was far from the last time they would see White.
14. The family haunted him
Matt White couldn’t get the Black family out of his head after he left. So he decided to do some more research on them, and what he learned troubled him even more. It turns out Chauncy and his mother had been living in poverty for years, getting by only on Barbara’s disability checks.
Chauncy, a growing high schooler, hadn’t even hadn’t had any new clothes purchased for him in three years. White kept thinking to himself – wondering – what could he do to help beyond buying them food that will only last a week or so? How could he really make a difference for the Black family?
15. Taking it to Facebook
By Matt White’s own admission, he was living a comfortable life when he met Chauncy. But he wasn’t wealthy or able to donate enough money to the Black family to really make an impact. These days, though, there are other tools available to handle such situations. You guessed it – social media is key.
White took to Facebook to share his encounter with Chauncy Black with the world in an attempt to find someone who could help. He hoped Black would inspire others online the way the remarkable teen had inspired him. As it turns out, Chauncy Black is a true charmer, because what would happen next was astonishing.
16. The next step
Matt White was hopeful his Facebook post would catch the internet’s attention. He eventually even attached a GoFundMe link so people could donate to Chauncy Black’s cause. The GoFundMe page included information about Black’s clothing sizes – but the most important part is at the very bottom of the GoFundMe page.
That’s where White posted a video interview with Black, in which he describes his experience at the grocery store and offers his services in various jobs. Viewers found it simply impossible to watch the video and not fall in love with him. As it turned out, his story resonated with many, and that translated into financial assistance for Black.
17. Matt White’s grand plan
As Matt White’s Facebook post picked up traffic, so did the GoFundMe account. But what exactly did he hope to accomplish for Chauncy Black with the money he was raising? Did he have some kind of plan for helping Black spend the cash as effectively as possible?
Well, White did have a goal in mind. His plan was to raise enough cash to buy Chauncy Black a lawnmower so he could at least earn some summer cash before starting the 10th grade in the fall – for school supplies and food. What happened next proves one should never underestimate a person who is trying his best to do good unto others.
18. The GoFundMe went viral
As Matt White’s Facebook post picked up more and more traffic, the GoFundMe page to which it linked eventually went viral. In addition to donations, total strangers starting flooding White with offers of jobs, food, clothing – and even dental care. At the time, White’s Facebook post was shared 14,000 times and commented on 3,500.
By this point, White began setting the bar higher. Why settle for only a lawnmower if he could maybe raise enough money for a new home for the Black family, along with a college education for Chauncy? If given the opportunity to succeed, White was certain Chauncy Black would seize it.
19. Love from strangers
Shares on Facebook is one thing, but what about the GoFundMe account? How much did it raise? Well, it turns out more than $340,000 eventually poured in for Chauncy and Barbara, a single mother who had survived on disability checks the entire time she raised Chauncy, despite having multiple health problems.
“I did the best I could,” she recalled at the time. “The past few years, Chauncy has been taking care of me. He’s a good boy. I couldn’t ask for better.” Barbara may have not asked for better, but she and her son’s lives were about to change forever.
20. ‘Chauncy’s Chance’
What began as a Facebook post transformed into a movement, titled “Chauncy’s Chance.” From ABC to Daily Mail and PEOPLE, media outlets began covering Chauncy Black’s story. Eventually, people began pointing him out in the street as if he were some Hollywood star. It was quite a change of pace for the teen.
“It’s so awesome – my life has been completely changed,” Black told People Magazine at the time. “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.” But attention isn’t always a positive thing.
21. Fair-weather friends
It’s not as though the news coverage had turned Chauncy Black into a household name, but the publicity certainly put him in the spotlight. Having earned over a quarter of a million dollars seemingly overnight, the Black family, who lived in an impoverished part of Memphis, had to be careful.
Indeed, the money brought with it demands from people Chauncy and Barbara hadn’t been in close touch with before the event. “My relatives were like when you get some money can you help me, asking for help in business and all that kind of stuff,” Black said at the time. Speaking of the money – how were the Blacks planning to handle it?
22. Handling the big bucks
Three-hundred forty thousand dollars is a lot of money to receive all at once. And often in situations such as these, the recipients have to be assisted by professionals in finding the best way to spend and store their cash to make sure it lasts as long as possible.
For this reason, White said he and the Black family were going to contact an attorney about handling the money “so that they take the least amount of hit on taxes. So it’s set up in a trust and not at risk of anybody trying to come and claim it,” he told a local news channel at the time. What was White’s stake in all this, anyway?
23. Matt White’s faith
Some might wonder why Matt White took it upon himself to help Chauncy Black and his mother. Really though, they might ask, what’s in it for him? Well, it turns out that in addition to being a musician, White is a practicing Christian who believes that his faith instructs him to help others.
Instead of taking credit for himself, he thanks a higher power for coming to the aid of Black. He believes the meeting between the two wasn’t by chance. “In every sense of the word, God has provided,” he has said of the encounter. Still, though, White’s mission wasn’t over.
24. Help others like Chauncy
With Chauncy Black given the opportunity of a lifetime to turn his and his mother’s lives around, White encouraged others to “look for Chauncys out there.” To him, Black’s story shouldn’t be only something inspirational to read about. Rather, it should be a call to action to help others in need.
“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,” White said. But the Black family seems to think otherwise.
25. Credit where it’s due
While Matt White credits a higher power for putting him in touch with Chauncy Black, the teen and his mother greatly appreciate what the musician did for their family. Chauncy and Barbara Black had nothing but nice things to say about Matt White – they gave him much more credit than he gave himself.
“He’s the nicest person I’ve ever met,” Chauncy said. “Nobody ever cared more than he did.” “He’s family, that’s what he is,” Barbara added. “He’s in our lives forever now. He’s family.” Of course, they are also thankful to everyone involved in donating and reaching out! As for White himself, there’s more to him than meets the eye.
26. Not the first time
For Matt White, it appears, his effort to help the Black family wasn’t his first time doing charity work. A scan of his Facebook profile reveals White has been involved in helping other children in need in the past. Even when he is not directly involved, he posts charity success stories on his Facebook page.
In a time of increasing narcissism and self-indulgence thanks to social media, White finds solace in doing good unto others, just as the Bible instructs him to. In fact, it turns out Chauncy Black isn’t the only person for whom White opened up a GoFundMe account.
27. The Can Man
It turns out Matt White had also set up a GoFundMe account for a blind bottle collector he had run into in “one of the rougher parts of Memphis” by chance. He had found the man, named JB Kibbler, digging through trash for cans so he could feed his daughters and four granddaughters.
White had set up a GoFundMe for the then-65-year-old “Can Man,” who works from sunrise until sundown 7 days a week. With the hope of helping the man afford to take just a few days off to spend with his family, the donations eventually reached $36,000! In Memphis, White has his work cut out for him.
28. The poverty problem in Memphis
As of 2017, Memphis was home to the largest share of poor people out of all larger American cities, according to a University of Memphis report at the time. And although poverty rates rose for every race in the city in 2016, the numbers themselves are higher for African Americans.
Dr. Elena Delavega, who produces the report annually, pointed to a number of factors that contribute to the city’s high poverty rate, including transportation problems and a minimum wage she considers too low. And it turns out those numbers are just as bad for children in the Southern city – which makes Chauncy Black’s story all the more heartwarming.
29. Children are affected big time
The child poverty rate highlighted in Dr. Elena Delavega’s report was a whopping 44.7 percent. As Delavega put it, “What that means and I want you to think about it, is that when you see a child walking down the street, when you see a child, there’s a 50-50 chance […] that that child is living in poverty.”
As troubling as that statistic might sound, it’s clear it would take many more Matt Whites to even make a dent in the problem. Indeed, it takes major effort and tremendous resources to fight poverty. But that doesn’t mean individuals can’t make a difference – especially when technology is on their side.
30. How GoFundMe works
GoFundMe is a for-profit online fundraising tool. That’s right – the company takes 5 percent of all donations raised on its platform, in addition to a 2.9 percent payment-processing fee collected on every donation and 30 additional cents for every donation. The rest of the cash goes to the cause for which the GoFundMe account was created.
The platform works for individuals and organizations alike. If you need to raise money for a cause and users are willing to contribute, the website can be a useful tool. It worked for Matt White, and thanks to him, a young teen and his mother have another chance at life.
31. Any regrets?
When asked about having any regrets before publishing their story which would in-turn lead to a viral GoFundMe campaign, Matt confirmed that he wished they had a press representative to handle all of the media backlash they received. Anytime a story goes viral, regardless of the positive intent that it may have been accompanied by, there will always be critics. Matt recalled, “you don’t know what to do…”.
Neither he nor Chauncy were ready for the overwhelming media attention they would receive. As the campaign continued to grow, more and more absurd offers came their way. Someone offered to buy Chauncy a lawn mower from Amazon, another offered to buy his mother new teeth. Eventually, they would be contacted by a local news station to run their story, and then The Ellen Show wanted them to make an appearance. As if the media attention wasn’t enough, now GoFundMe would maintain constant contact with Matt and Chauncy on a daily basis. It was all overwhelming to say the least.
32. One last statement
Matt said, “In the end, this whole experience has really shown me the power of God’s love in a community. Before there was any money, this was just me using videos and Facebook to try to affect change on the direction of a young man’s life through the kindness of others. All I intended to do was get Chauncy to come to church with me and encourage him in his efforts to have a lawn mowing business. But God had bigger plans.”
“Now Chauncy and his mom have a home of their own, and a future. And they want to go out and pay it forward. To keep the wave of love that saved their lives moving onto the next family. Seeing that happen has been the most beautiful and rewarding thing I could ever ask for. I just want to tell everyone that made this possible how much it means to me and that I promise I’ll work to the day I die to help keep it moving.”