Going grocery shopping is something that we all do, pretty much on a weekly basis. Most likely, you go to the same store every time you need groceries. You get to know the employees and have conversations with them every time you go. Most of the time you're just doing what you need to do, but if you're Matt White, going to the grocery store can change you how you view your life, your circumstances, and the people you surround yourself with. And it all began with a trip to the grocery store.
One night, while Matt White was at a Kroger in an upper-class part of the poor area of Memphis, he was approached by 16-year-old Chauncy Jones. Even before the young boy was able to get all of his words out, Matt was bewildered by the look on Chauncy's face - a look of defeat and shame. Chauncy had gotten on a bus to go to the "rich people's Kroger," as he called it, in the hopes of being able to work for some food because he had none. Chauncy only had one hour to get it done before he needed to take the bus back home, where he lived with his mother.
Chauncy asked Matt if there was any way he could carry his groceries to the car in exchange for a pack of glazed donuts. “He looked ashamed, hungry, and broken,” recalled Matt. Matt immediately told Chauncy told that he would get him some donuts, but he wanted to do something else for him, as well. There was something about Chauncy that tugged at Matt's heart. They would both soon realize that this was just the beginning.
“I just met the most inspiring person ever," Matt wrote on his now-viral post on Facebook. "His name is Chauncy Jones. He’s a 16-year-old from Memphis. He approached me while I was shopping for produce asking if he could help me carry my grocery bags to my car in exchange for buying him a pack of glazed donuts. This kid looked like he had been turned down 100 times. He looked ashamed, hungry, and broken. In my heart, I screamed a loud 'yes!' but to him, I just chuckled and said, 'yeah dude, we’ll get you some donuts.'”
When Matt found out that Chauncy had no food at home, he decided to bring him on a shopping spree. “We got cereal and chips and frozen veggies, pizzas, Cheetos, melons, pasta, peanut butter, milk, soap, toothbrushes, just a little bit of everything. 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." The more Chauncy spoke, the more amazed Matt became.
“Chauncy kept calling himself poor, but he told me that one day he was gonna be wealthy and own his own businesses so that he could help other people in his neighborhood and buy them groceries like me. I was in awe,” wrote Matt. Chauncy told Matt that his bus would be coming soon, so he started walking towards the bus stop. Matt didn't want him to have to ride the bus again, so he offered to drive him home instead. What Matt saw tore his heart apart.
“I gave him a ride home so that he didn’t have to take the bus and when we got to his house I was truly humbled," wrote Matt. "He wasn’t kidding. He and his mom had nothing. They didn’t even have beds or furniture. They were sleeping on pads made out of sleeping bags; they had two lamps and nothing in their fridge. Nothing."
Matt was taken aback by Chauncy's mother, Barbara, who he said was “so sweet but very fragile.” Barbara has a medical condition that makes it extremely difficult for her to walk, and she shakes often. Matt could see the obvious love that Chauncy and his mother shared, and he felt like there must be something more that he could do. Even though he had already done a lot - the supplies and food that he bought for them would last a couple of weeks - the singer/songwriter was compelled to do more.
“As we unpacked the food into their kitchen, you could see the hope coming back into Chauncy’s eyes. He knew he wasn’t going to be hungry," wrote Matt. "He looked like a kid again. As I was leaving, I gave him a hug and told him how much God loved him and that he was going to grow up to be an incredible man. I’ll never forget that hug. It meant more to me than any possession I have. Our God is an awesome God, and we can never be thankful enough for the blessings we have.” But there was more to come.
“I found out they’d been living like this for years, getting by on Barbara’s disability checks and I just knew I had to do something. Chauncy hadn’t had new clothes in three years. I’m not wealthy, but I live a comfortable life. I saw how he was living and it touched my heart," explained Matt. So Matt reached out to his Facebook page with their story. He didn't do it to brag. Matt wanted to see if anyone else would help out. He wanted to try to raise enough money to buy Chauncy a lawnmower, so he could try to earn some money over the summer before school began again in the fall.
The post went viral very quickly. Complete strangers offered jobs, clothing, food, dental care, and furniture! People shared the post over 14,000 times and it received more than 3,500 comments. Matt was overwhelmed, but in a good way, so he set up a GoFundMe account to try to raise enough money for a new home for them, and a college education for Chauncy. No one could have predicted what would happen.
What happened with the GoFundMe account? It raised more than $340,000 for Chauncy and his mother, Barbara. Barbara has been on disability for years after raising her seven adopted children, despite her incredible amount of health problems, like high blood pressure, blood clots, and diabetes. “I did the best I could. The past few years, Chauncy has been taking care of me. He’s a good boy. I couldn’t ask for better," said Barbara. Their lives were going to change forever.
All of this turned into something even bigger, which Matt calls the "Chauncy's Chance" movement. “As of today, Barbara and Chauncy have a new life. God has provided for them a home, a car, a new school, he has restored Barbara’s health, and continues to present them with endless opportunities for the future,” explained Matt in a GoFundMe update. "Every dollar donated to Chauncy’s Chance was put into a protected trust that will provide them a secure future for decades. In every sense of the word, God has provided.”
Chauncy and his mother now have a new start at life. Matt encourages others to "look for Chauncys out there, look for them and their stories. I live to fulfill God's heart and God has a heart for the fatherless and for the needy. 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," said Matt. And how do they feel about that?
“He’s the nicest person I’ve ever met. Nobody ever cared more than he did," said Chauncy. “He’s family, that’s what he is. He’s in our lives forever now. He’s family," explained Barbara. "It's so rare that we get an opportunity to affect so much change on one life, and hope people pay it forward. I think back to how many people poured into my life with their generosity, time, money, encouragement, and it brings me to tears. The impact that those people had on my life can never be measured. I am so grateful for the lives we share with one another, so grateful for each and every one of God's children. I cannot thank you enough for caring about Chauncy. This is his big chance, and you're making it possible," explained Matt. Think about it, everyday we're given this chance...we just have to take it.