Pianist Tonee "Valentine" Carter received the biggest tip of his life last Wednesday, courtesy of strangers from around the world who heard him play virtually.
Motivational speaker Carlos Whittaker was walking through Concourse A at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport when he heard someone playing the piano. He saw Carter, 66, "going to town, and I knew I just had to stay there," Whittaker told CNN. For 90 minutes, Whittaker sat in a bar and listened to Carter perform, and soon the pair were chatting. Whittaker saw that Carter's tip jar was empty, and decided to change that.
Whittaker shared videos of Carter playing to his Instagram account, and asked his 200,000 followers if they wanted to help him deliver Carter his biggest tip ever. Within 30 minutes, $10,000 had been sent via Venmo and Cash App. When Whittaker told Carter about the tip, he was stunned. "I love giving and donating and helping people, but I never expected someone to do it for me," Carter told CNN.
The money kept coming in, and that $10,000 grew to $70,000 by Saturday. Carter said he was touched by the fact that many of the donations were small amounts like $1 or $2. "I knew they were giving me what they had," he said. "People were giving out of love."
Carter has kidney disease and receives dialysis treatment nightly, but that doesn't stop him from going to the airport nearly every day, because when he plays the piano, "I feel like the happiest man in the world," he said. The massive tip means everything to Carter, but he told CNN that it's "not mine. It's money that's going to go to others. There is only one way to say thank you, because words are inadequate. And that is to pay this forward."