They looked at him with complete disdain, others didn’t even see him. He took a deep breath, looked up to the sky and prayed to whatever god that was listening to help him.
He looked back down and turned to see a man staring at him. It was a piercing, all-judging, all-seeing stare. Suddenly, he realized he was crying. Embarrassed, he turned away, completely unaware that he’d been heard.
It was another hard day for 16-year-old Chauncy Jones. Jones lived with his mom in a rented apartment in one of the poorest parts of Memphis, Tennessee.
Through an unfortunate twist of fate, Jones was an underprivileged teen who grew up facing all the challenges that come with poverty. He had to think fast if he wanted to survive, and this day was no different.
It started off like any other day, but it wouldn’t end like one. Jones looked defeated and ashamed as he recalled how he’d usually spend his hour waiting for the bus home from school.
He explained that he’d ride the bus to what he referred to as the “rich people’s Kroger”, in hopes of earning some money to buy food for himself and his mother.
The one thing fate didn’t screw up for Jones was how much his mom loved him. They had a strong, loving bond which was why Jones was so worried for her.
Jones’ mom had been suffering from medical issues that had put her out of work for years. Now, all her disability allowance was spent on rent. She wasn’t coping well. A fact that left Jones feeling as if an iron fist was clasped around his chest.
He wanted to help her, but they had no money and no one to ask for help. His dad was out of the picture, so the responsibility to look after her weighed heavy on his shoulders.
It was around 4pm when Jones hopped off the bus and walked over to Kroger. He prepared for another hour of humbling himself in front of strangers, completely unaware of what he’d encounter today.
It became like clockwork to him now. He would wait around the door and offer help to people to carry their groceries bags to their car in exchange for donuts.
He made sure to be polite and mannerly. But he knew how he looked, he wore tattered clothes and was essentially asking strangers for money. Some people saw this as begging, others saw it as providing a service but someone else saw it as something very different.
Jones wasn’t begging. He had no choice but to ask for food and even then, he wanted to work for it but not everyone saw it that way.
Some people saw Jones come their way, and turned the other direction, others turned their nose up at him and ignored him completely or gave him a dismissive “no”. His stomach ached while his faith faltered but this was just the beginning.
Jones was getting tired. As a straight A student, school demanded a lot of his energy. Energy that was in limited supply due to his constant hunger.
He walked around from person to person, smiling through his fatigue and hunger pains. But when he realised his hour was almost up, his smile faded and his eyes teared. But then something crazy happened.
He was standing at the checkout inside, looking out the window at Jones. He was watching him for a while now.
Jones hung his head in despair, then looked up to the sky, praying to whatever god was listening to give him strength. That’s when he felt someone was watching him. He turned and his eyes met his.
He looked proud. He was tall and handsome. He looked like someone that would shop at Kroger, even whole foods. For a second, Jones wondered why he was staring at him. He wondered what he saw. Someone very different from the people in his circle, that’s for sure.
Suddenly, Jones realized that he was crying. The man continued to stare.
Embarrassed by his emotions, Jones quickly turned and wiped his tears. He had 10 minutes left to get some food before his bus arrived. So he took a deep breath and tried one last time.
He asked a few people without luck. But then he saw another man standing alone, organizing his bags in his shopping cart to move them to his car. Jones made his move.
He had his back to Jones as Jones asked him if he’d accept help getting his bags to his car in exchange for some donuts. The man turned around and Jones took a step back.
It was the man who was staring at him through the window earlier. Jones felt a sudden wave of shame. He braced himself for the look of disgust he felt was sure to follow. But what happened next would change Jones’ life forever.
Matt White often shopped at the Kroger store in what was considered an “upper-class” part of a poor area in Memphis.
White usually shopped around this time of the week and this wasn’t the first time he noticed Jones walking around offering help. In fact, he noticed Jones twice before, but he never approached him, until now.
“He looked ashamed, hungry, and broken,” White later recalled. White immediately felt a tug at his heart strings and agreed to get the boy some donuts.
However, while White got to know Jones, he was determined to do something more for him. Jones had no idea that this short encounter would only be the start of a life-changing story.
It broke White’s heart to see the look of shame and defeat on Jones face as he made such a simple request. As he looked at him from the window, he already decided that it was his mission to help Jones.
Jones was overjoyed by his help. He expressed his thanks for buying him donuts and made his way towards the bus. But White wasn’t done with him yet.
“I just met the most inspiring person ever,” White wrote in a now-viral post. “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.’”
Jones had told White that he and his mother had no food in the house. It was then that White decided to take 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 he learned about Jones the more he couldn’t let him go.
“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,” White wrote.
When Jones told White that he needed to get to the bus stop, White surprised him by offering to drive him home himself to deliver the groceries. The sight that met him, however, broke his heart.
Being poor, as we all know, doesn’t necessarily mean you have nothing. More often than not it means that you have very little and struggle to get by from day to day. White had heard that Jones and his mother were poor, but he was in for a surprise.
When he finally arrived at the house, what White saw absolutely crushed him. Nothing prepared him for what he found.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
That was the moment when White realized that the boy and his mother were not only unsure of a full belly before bed, but they were so poor that they could barely call what they had a bed at all.
This boy and his mother were in greater need than White ever imagined.
White was particularly taken aback by Jones’s mother, Barbara, who was “so sweet but very fragile.” She has a condition that makes it difficult for her to walk, and she shakes. The love the boy and his mother feel for one another was obvious.
White felt like there had to be something more that he could do. While he had already done so much — the food and supplies would help them out for a couple of weeks — the singer/songwriter still wanted 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,” White wrote. “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 that wasn’t the end.
“I found out they’d been living like this for years, getting by on Barbara’s disability checks,” White said, “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.”
So he took to his Facebook page to share the story to see if anyone else could help out. He hoped to get enough donations to buy Jones a lawnmower to earn some summer cash before returning to high school.
The post quickly went viral, with offers of jobs, food, clothing, dental care, and furniture pouring in from complete strangers. The post was shared more than 14,000 times and has more than 3,500 comments.
Overwhelmed, White set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for a new home for them, along with a college education for Jones. What happened next is more than anyone could have predicted.
We all know how difficult it can be to raise money for any cause. White hoped that the story of Chauncy and his mother’s plight would make enough people open their hearts to help him reach the target.
He really wanted to help this boy. He created the account, and then it was time to wait.
That GoFundMe page? It has raised more than $340,000 for Jones and his mother, a mother who has been on disability after years of raising her seven adopted children despite a multitude of health problems like blood clots, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
“I did the best I could,” Barbara said. “The past few years, Chauncy has been taking care of me. He’s a good boy. I couldn’t ask for better.” And now their lives were about to change.
All of this launched into something even greater, which White called 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,”
White explained 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.”
Just as Jones and his mother now have a new lease on life, White wants to encourage 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,” White said.
“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.” And what do they think about that?
“He’s the nicest person I’ve ever met,” Jones 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.” White added that 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,” he said.
“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.” And to think, every day we’re given that chance — if we’re willing to take it.