Chauncy’s Chance: A Random Encounter Changes a Teen's Life
During a trip to the grocery store in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, a man by the name of Matt White was approached by a young stranger, a teenage boy who admitted he was very hungry. The boy didn't want a handout — he was willing to do some work for a meal.
However, Matt decided to help without asking for anything in return. His decision forever altered the course of the young man's life. Take a look at how it all happened on that fateful day.
A Routine Trip
One night, Matt White was making his weekly trip to a local Kroger grocery store for food and other household supplies. The 30-year-old music business graduate walked around different aisles in the store, grabbing what he needed to make meals at home for the next week.
A Mysterious Stranger
As Matt made his way to his car, a teenage boy began walking toward him. He was automatically curious but also cautious, wondering what the teen could want from him. It was late at night, and the teen should have been at home, not at a grocery store speaking to strangers.
A Sad Mission
As Matt stood over the young boy and listened intently, the teen explained himself. He was 16 years old, and his name was Chauncy Jones Black. He had taken the bus to get to what he referred to as the "rich people's Kroger" because he needed food.
Willing to Help
The teen clearly was in need of help. "He looked ashamed, hungry and broken," Matt later said about the incident in an interview. Chauncy was desperate, willing to do even the smallest task for Matt to help him get a bite to eat. He asked to help carry Matt's groceries to the car.
Getting to Know Each Other
As the two ventured back inside the Kroger grocery store, Matt found himself even more curious about the young boy. He felt terrible for Chauncy and had an overwhelming desire to help. However, he wanted to know more about the teen's back story.
A Tug at the Heartstrings
After Chauncy got his desired doughnuts, Matt still felt like he could do much more for him. The boy and his mother had nothing to eat at home. Chauncy was so hungry that he had resorted to offering to work for a meal. Doughnuts simply weren’t enough for the mother and son.
A Shopping Spree
The two continued to talk as Matt casually strolled through different aisles with a cart. Chauncy thought Matt would head straight to the cash register, but he didn’t. Matt was slowly putting food and other products Chauncy and his mom could use at home in the cart.
A Teen Leader
The pair continued to chat as they walked through the aisles of the store. Matt discovered more about the teen's home life and his schoolwork. He found out that Chauncy was a straight-A student at his high school, and he was looking for a job to help his mother pay the rent.
While speaking with Matt, Chauncy kept referring to himself as "poor," but that didn't mean he planned to stay that way. Matt had already learned some things about the teen's current circumstances. Now, Chauncy opened up about his future plans.
A Ride Home
After getting the groceries for Chauncy and his mom, Matt paid for everything at the checkout counter. The teen sincerely thanked him for his help and began walking toward the bus stop to catch the last bus home. As he walked away, Matt reflected on the situation.
A Humble Abode
When Matt reached Chauncy's home, he realized the teen hadn't been exaggerating about his family’s difficulties. Matt was stunned to see that the residence was basically empty, except for a few items.
Matt also met Chauncy’s mom and learned more about her own struggles in raising her son on her own. His mom, Barbara, was extremely kind and was thankful to Matt for his assistance with her son. Matt noticed that she seemed to be physically weak and appeared to be in serious pain.
After Matt talked a little with Barbara, he began unpacking the bags of groceries he had bought for her and Chauncy. As he filled the fridge and cabinets with food, Chauncy's eyes lit up, and he had a spark of energy. "He looked like a kid again," Matt said.
An Unforgettable Experience
After he left, Matt couldn't get Chauncy and Barbara out of his head. He did a little digging on his own and learned more about the Black family. Chauncy and Barbara had been living in poverty for several years, with only Barbara's disability checks to help them make ends meet. Unfortunately, those checks clearly weren't enough to even keep food on the table.
Sharing the Story
Matt was financially stable, but he wasn't rich like Chauncy may have assumed. He didn’t have money to donate to help the Black family get back on their feet. However, he knew about one powerful tool that could help: social media.
Taking Things Further
After Matt published his post on Facebook, he decided to take things a step further. He created a GoFundMe page in Chauncy's name and shared the link online so people could donate to the family. The page also included information about Chauncy's clothing sizes in case anyone wanted to help him get new clothes.
A Grand Scheme
As both Matt's Facebook post and Kroger's video got more traffic, the donations began pouring into Chauncy's GoFundMe page. Matt saw how much money was accumulating, and he had a specific plan for how to use it.
Matt's Facebook page and the GoFundMe page he created went viral. At the time, his Facebook post had been shared 14,000 times and had 3,500 comments. Not only were people making financial donations, but strangers were reaching out to Matt with offers of jobs, food, clothing and even dental care for Chauncy and his mom.
Outpouring of Love
With all the traffic online, the GoFundMe account eventually raised more than $340,000! That was much more than Chauncy and Barbara could have earned in years. Barbara had always wanted to take good care of her son, but there wasn’t much she could do with her medical condition.
After the story went viral, media outlets like People, ABC and The Daily Mail began covering Chauncy's story. The coverage was so extensive that it became a real movement known as "Chauncy's Chance." The teen was often recognized while out in public, and he became a local star in Memphis.
Watching Their Backs
Chauncy became a local celebrity almost overnight, but the attention wasn't always a good thing. The money his family received from the GoFundMe campaign attracted plenty of people who didn't have good intentions for him or his mom.
People with a lot of money typically have outside professionals like accountants and lawyers to help them manage their funds. Chauncy and his mom realized they had to come up with a game plan to handle the money, and Matt offered to help.
A Strong Faith
Although it might be tempting to think Matt was trying to profit in some way from Chauncy and Barbara, he helped them out of the kindness of his heart and asked for nothing in return. Part of the reason for his support was simple — his faith in God.
The Price of Fame
In spite of the many blessings that Chauncy and Barbara have received, Matt acknowledges that the fame came with its share of disadvantages. Looking back, he wishes he and the family had consulted a press representative to handle all the media attention — and the critical backlash they eventually received from skeptics and haters.
Nonetheless, Chauncy and his mom have mostly benefited from the chain of events, and they are thankful for everyone who donated. Their assistance helped them completely change their lives for the better. They are even more grateful for Matt, who really went the extra mile to look out for them.
Helping a Community
The Black family actually weren’t the first people Matt had helped in Memphis. He had regularly worked with organizations to help children and adults in need in the past. He also posted charitable efforts on his Facebook page to inspire others.
Hoping to Inspire
For Matt, none of his actions were for the attention or for show. In his Christian faith, he believes in the principle of "do unto others as you would like done unto you." His work with Chauncy and Barbara was a clear testament to his faith.
Poverty in Memphis
This story brought to light the extreme poverty in the city of Memphis. According to a 2017 report from the University of Memphis, the city had the largest amount of poor people out of all the largest cities in America. The poverty rates were highest among African Americans.
The Impact on Children
According to Dr. Delavega's report, the child poverty rate in Memphis was 44.7% at the time. "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," she revealed in an interview.
A Bigger Plan
Matt is adamant that God played a part in Chauncy's situation. "Before there was any money, this was just me using videos and Facebook to try to effect change on the direction of a young man's life through the kindness of others," Matt said.