In the digital age, the smallest act of kindness can go viral.
Walking home from a burrito stand in Hamilton, Ontario, 21-year-old college student Godfrey Cuotto decided to catch a bus for the rest of the trip. The bus was packed with people, but he found an open spot at the front, and nothing seemed out of ordinary about the day.
Then a strange man approached him and took his hand. Bemused, Cuotto shook it, but the man didn’t want to let go.
“He kept holding my hand,” he would later tell reporters. “I thought I was getting pranked at first, but he just needed comfort.”
The man was named Robert, and he had special needs that included cerebral palsy and deafness. The crowded bus was overwhelming him, so he reached out for help that he wasn’t able to request in words.
Cuotto understood him anyway. For the rest of the bus ride, the two men sat side-by-side, and Cuotto permitted Robert to hug him, hold his hand, lean on his shoulder and even kiss his knuckles.
“I just allowed it,” Cuotto said. “Like, what am I going to do? Sometimes you just have to be selfless and put someone else’s needs above yours.”
Cuotto’s selflessness extended so far that he actually sat with Robert until the crowd thinned and the bus reached the end of the line. At some point in their trip, another passenger snapped a photo of them, and it gained worldwide attention when it was posted on the Facebook page “Only In Hamilton.”
“I didn’t know if u can post this but I would liking to say thank you to the guy who was seating beside a special needs gentleman…” said the update. “He allowed him to hold his hand and find comfort well in a packed bus.. It make my day when I see stuff like that.”
Other users piled on the likes and shares, and before long, the picture had gone viral.
“In the midst of all the craziness, there is still goodness in this world. Thank you for reminding us, #GodfreyCuotto,” said one Twitter user.
“#GodfreyCuotto you are a genuine inspiration, I don’t know many people who would have done what you did for that man. Stay blessed,” said another.
The special needs community was also moved by Cuotto’s kindness. Said one user, “I have a brother with autism. May he run into many more people just like this true gentleman from Hamilton.”
Robert’s family also saw the photo, and they personally reached out to Cuotto to express their gratitude and support. They shared Robert’s story and explained that the crowded bus had probably frayed his nerves.
As for Cuotto himself, he was identified, located and interviewed by everyone from Toronto radio stations to Huffington Post Canada. The original bus photo gained almost 70,000 likes and 4,000 comments in a matter of weeks.
Despite the media frenzy, however, Cuotto remained level-headed, and he insists to this day that his act of kindness was nothing special. When asked where he learned his manners, he said it was his mother.
“I was raised by a queen,” he explained.
According to one Facebook user, “Godfrey Cuotto should consider a career in politics! His mother should be his chief of staff!”