In June 2016, Chauncy Black rode the bus from his home in South Memphis to one of the city’s whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. The 16-year-old helped his grandmother pay the bills by doing odd jobs for neighbors, and on this afternoon he was headed for the rich-person Kroger supermarket to try something new: approaching shoppers who’d just bought hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries and offering to take their bags to the car for a few bucks. It had seemed like a good idea, but in practice it was dispiriting. People ignored him; they wouldn’t even look him in the eye.
Sometime after 9 p.m., Chauncy filled a box with a dozen donuts and approached a tall white man in his 30s. In exchange for buying him this “dinner,” Chauncy told the guy, he’d carry his groceries. Matt White bought Chauncy the donuts—and cereal and peanut butter and toothbrushes and frozen vegetables, too. “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 posted on Facebook the next day. Matt drove Chauncy (and the sacks of groceries) home. “When we got to his house I was truly humbled. He wasn’t kidding. He and his mom had nothing,” Matt wrote. “I thought I was going to cry. 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. He looked like a kid again.”
Like Chauncy, Matt was born and raised in Memphis, albeit in a different milieu. He was the son of a successful medical-malpractice attorney and a homemaker. In 2008, when Matt was in his early 20s, his father was diagnosed with cancer; three months later, he died. Matt says he spiraled out of control. “I had no Lord anymore,” he told me. He had a day job in the music industry and dealt party drugs at night. One morning after a bender, Matt said, he nearly ran his car off the road and, believing he’d been saved by divine intervention, decided to offer his life up to God.