When 21-year-old Godfrey Coutto got on the bus in Hamilton Tuesday afternoon, he was expecting it to be another uneventful ride back home from downtown.
But as soon as he boarded the crowded 10 B-Line Express bus, a man named Robert walked up to him and shook his hand and didn’t let go.
According to Robert’s family, the middle-aged man has cerebral palsy and is deaf.
During the 30-minute bus ride to Coutto’s stop, Robert wrapped his arm around the McMaster University sociology student, gave him props and kissed his hands.
At first, Coutto was alarmed, but decided to put Robert’s needs ahead of his own comfort.
“This was my first time encountering such a thing. I was obviously freaked out but I tried to understand his position,” said Coutto.
“I thought, you know what, I’m just going to allow it. I’ll let him do his thing. I’ll comfort him.’”
Another passenger on the bus snapped a photo of the two men and posted it to a community group on Facebook. The photo has since been liked over 40,000 times.
Coutto said Robert’s niece reached out to him and thanked him for what he did, and explained that Robert likes to explore and socialize, but is often rejected by strangers.
Coutto witnessed it himself when he got off the bus and Robert approached another man to give him a hug, who shrugged him off and walked away.
Another McMaster student posted a photo of Robert hugging her friend in the comments thread under the photo.
“I’ve met him twice and he just hugs and high fives guys, people may be uncomfortable with that but he’s just trying to be nice,” wrote Facebook user Erin E Harvey.
Coutto doesn’t believe he is a hero, as some have called him, but hopes it will help inspire more acts of kindness.
“To be honest I’m no role model, no hero, but I hope to inspire people from what I did,” he said.
“Share the love. Put people’s needs above yours. Don’t be selfish.”
Coutto credits his parents, especially his mother, for instilling these values in him, calling her a “queen.”
“My mom has done everything for me. She actually deserves the whole world. She disciplined me a lot,” he said. “My mom is my number one role model.”
– with files from Angie Seth