ALLIANCE, Ohio — Raymond Butler was riding his bicycle home from football practice one day in July when he got a flat tire, which may have been fate for a unique friendship in the making.
The seventh-grader who attends Marlington Middle School in Alliance, Ohio, had slowed down enough to notice someone in need and felt compelled to help.
Gary Barnes, whose right leg is amputated below the knee, was sitting in his mobility scooter and using his self-propelled lawnmower to mow a section of his front lawn.
"I saw this man who had only one leg. He was trying to cut his grass," Raymond said. "I pulled in his driveway and offered to mow his grass for free."
Barnes was touched by the gesture, ordered a replacement bike inner tube on Amazon, and started a conversation with the boy.
"He said, 'I could mow your yard.' I said, 'Well, that would be nice. How much would you charge me to mow my grass?' And, he replied shy and sheepishly, 'Nothing, I'd do it for free,'" Barnes said.
Sure enough, Raymond cut the grass, but Barnes insisted on paying him $10.
"It was just a flat-out general random act of kindness that he bestowed upon me," Barnes said.
Barnes, who has nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, said Raymond now feels like another grandchild to him.
Raymond continues to come around to help with the yard and odd jobs, and the two go fishing twice a week.
The relationship has extra meaning to Barnes because he has an acute focus on the value of life. He has prostate cancer, which has spread to some of his bones.
"Right now, I'm on chemotherapy and so I go back in six months for all the other scans," he said. "I have so much knowledge to share. I feel like I need to share it with someone, but I feel like I'm running out of time."
Barnes posted his experience with the boy on Facebook and received hundreds of positive comments from the Alliance-area community.
Raymond lives with his grandparents who don't have a car, so he rides his bike to practice — about a 10-mile round trip.
Barnes also realized that Raymond could use some new clothes for the school year, so he started a GoFundMe page, calling it, "School clothes for Raymond."
"In less than 24 hours, we were pushing $1,000," Barnes said.
The amount grew to more than $1,500 as of Friday evening.
Raymond said he's grateful his kind favor was returned but wasn't expecting the generosity from Barnes.
"I'm getting up into different grades and it's getting more expensive for clothes," he said. "It was nice."
Barnes's wife plans to take Raymond shopping on Monday and any extra money that is raised will be donated to help other kids in need.
"Of course, we all know it's been said a hundred times: It'll make the world a better place if we're all just kind to one another," Barnes said.
Raymond agreed and is thrilled his decision to stop and push a lawnmower forward is leading to a small movement to pay it forward. He now has a message, which is wise beyond his years: "When you grow up, to be kind to others and they will be kind back."
This story was originally published by Bob Jones at WEWS.