Student lauded online for holding special-needs stranger's hand

A university student held the hands of a special-needs stranger throughout his 30-minute bus ride home to ensure the man felt comfortable.

Godfrey Coutto sat with Robert, a deaf man who also suffers cerebral palsy

Someone on the same bus as Godfrey Coutto and Robert snapped a photo of the middle-aged man leaning on Coutto and holding his hand. (Only In Hamilton/Facebook)

A Hamilton, Ont. university student didn't back off when a middle-aged man approached him on a packed bus to shake his hand — and he didn't pull away when the stranger held on, either. 

Instead, Godfrey Coutto sat with the man, whose name is Robert, for his entire Tuesday ride home on the 10 B-Line Express bus. 

At various points, Robert wrapped an arm around Coutto, 21,  and even kissed his hands until the McMaster University student left the bus at its final stop. Robert then wandered away to hug someone else, but they ignored him, Coutto recalled. 

"I was like, 'Yo, what's going on? Am I getting pranked or something?' I wasn't. I looked at him [and realized] he's special-needs," Coutto told Global News.

The outlet also reported that Robert has cerebral palsy and is deaf.

Coutto said that he felt uncomfortable at first, but he decided to sit alongside the man. 

"Sometimes you just have to be selfless and put someone else's needs above yours," Coutto told the Huffington Post.

However, someone else on the bus made Coutto a minor celebrity by snapping a photo and posting it to the Facebook group Only in Hamilton. The photo shows Coutto looking away as Robert leans on him.

"[Coutto] allowed him to hold his hand and find comfort well in a packed bus," the poster wrote. "It make [sic] my day when I see stuff like that."

The photos has been shared nearly 10,000 times and liked by almost 40,000 people. 

"As a mom of a special-needs child I thank you for showing [...] kindness and compassion. You are an inspiration to the world," Kimberlee Rogers commented below the photo.

Even a Toronto police officer noted Coutto's kindness on Twitter. 

Perhaps the most touching thanks came from Robert's family. Robert's niece sent him a message on Facebook to thank him for helping her uncle, according to the Huffington Post.

Coutto attributed some of his behaviour to his mother, telling Toronto radio station Kiss 92.5 he "was raised by a queen."

His father said he was proud. 

Another McMaster student said that she had come across Robert a few times before, posting a photo in the comments of a different Facebook thread focused on the photo. 

Erin Harvey posted this photo of Robert hugging someone she knows in the comment section of a McMaster University Facebook post about Godfrey Coutto, who helped Robert during a bus ride home. (Erin Harvey/Facebook)

"I've met him twice and he just hugs and high-fives guys," Harvey wrote. "People may be uncomfortable with that but he's just trying to be nice."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.