After attending his grandmother's funeral in Alabama, Courtney White and his wife, Tanya Prewitt-White, landed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and were finally heading home on the Blue Line train Sunday night.
That's when they witnessed a sight that moved both of them to act — an apparently homeless man on the train who was sleeping in a wheelchair.
"We were getting off at Irving Park, and I had grabbed some money to give him," Prewitt-White, 33, told the Chicago Tribune. "My husband had the same idea, so he already had money out to give him. I handed my additional money to my husband, and he just slipped it all into the gentleman's bag, and we walked off."
They thought that was that, but another passenger had a different idea.
Jack Stankovic saw the couple's gesture of kindness, snapped a photo of them as they exited the train — and then posted what he witnessed to Facebook, telling readers that "these 2 people must be put on blast":
Stankovic called the act "something rare and sometimes unheard of" and said it restored "his faith in humanity." His Sunday post had received more than 73,000 shares as of Friday afternoon.
"I posted the picture because, at the time, everyone on the train was heads-down on their phones," he told the Tribune. "We see so much negativity on a daily basis on social media. If we only took the time to look at our surroundings, we would see the positive things happening around us. We, as a society, talk about change, but rarely do we act on it. The picture symbolizes action."
White, 42, has received Facebook messages about the gesture from overseas and stateside while colleagues at Downers Grove North, where he's the physical education department chair, have shared it with the school community, the Tribune said.
"We were just trying to pay it forward," Prewitt-White, a sport and health psychology professor at Adler University, told the Tribune. "My husband and I talk about this all the time — about our own self-righteousness, about how it's easier to become hardened and not make eye contact or smile at people who appear homeless because then you don't have to look pain and suffering in the face. It's definitely been a journey for the two of us."
Taking things to a practical level, Prewitt-White said she has a resolution to take a homeless person to eat once a week. "My husband and I both feel like, you know, we have full-time jobs," she told the Tribune. "We're not in the top 10 percent or anything, but we're able to give, and we should."
And it turns out that Stankovic got to see the man's reaction after the couple left the train — he said he knows because he woke the guy up.
"I didn't want him to pull his water bottle out and drop [the money]," he told the paper. "I stepped off and stood on the platform and watched through the window. He had this look on his face like, 'Why?' Confused why anyone would do that. You can't put into words the feeling I had that day. It's like everything was right in the world for a brief moment."
(H/T: Chicago Tribune)
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