Mick Myers had been living on the streets for so long that he barely knew who he was anymore. But while it was often a solitary existence, he did see some people he recognized now and again. One of them was Deputy Sheriff Jacob Swalwell, who had repeatedly warned Mick about his panhandling. But when he became tired of giving the same old spiel to Mick, the cop decided to do a little digging into the homeless man’s past...
Mick did remember what life had been like as a kid. He had been adopted as a two-year-old and had grown up in San Leandro, CA. But he had never been fully accepted by the family that had taken him in. And after his adoptive parents passed away, his siblings turned their backs on him — leaving Mick to fend for himself.
Isolated and alone
Mick lost contact with his childhood friends, too, and he found himself struggling to make ends meet on his own. Eventually, he found work as a truck driver and was able to bring in a little bit of money — enough to get by. Still, he just couldn’t seem to shake off those feelings of isolation and heartache.
Playing music to survive
And although Mick worked hard, he eventually lost his job driving. Unable to find employment elsewhere, he soon found himself living on the streets, panhandling and playing music to survive. But everything changed in November 2017 when he crossed paths — yet again — with Deputy Sheriff Swalwell. The cop had long been asking him to change his ways.
A cop steps in
This time, however, Deputy Sheriff Swalwell decided that he had to escalate matters. He was going to hit Mick with a citation. “I had given him so many warnings,” he told KPIX-TV in 2018. “And I asked him for his ID, and he said he didn’t have an ID. And I immediately asked ‘Why don’t you have an ID?’”
The truth comes out
“He was not an alcoholic, he did not use drugs… He was a senior citizen,” Swalwell continued. Without that crucial ID, though, he couldn’t give the citation. And the pair eventually struck up a conversation. The deputy sheriff recalled, “I learned more, that he was disabled and had been homeless for 30 years.” His curiosity was piqued.
And it turned out that Mick was dependent on begging for a very good reason. “I said, ‘I can’t get [social security] because I can’t even get an ID,’” he told KPIX-TV. Swalwell decided to take things further. “Well, you’ve got somebody to help you now,” Mick recalled the deputy saying. “I’m going to help you get your ID so you can get your social security and get off the street.”
Not in the system
Still, the road to getting that ID wouldn’t be easy. In fact, even with the officer by his side, it proved to be a tremendous struggle. That was because the DMV had long since erased any record of Mick from their system. And in order to get him back into the system, it needed documents that Mick obviously didn’t have.
Working against him
To satisfy the DMV, Mick was told that he would need to produce his birth certificate and two forms confirming he was a resident of California. This all left Swalwell bemused. “How does a homeless person come up with two forms of residency?” he asked KPIX-TV. Finally, though, there was a breakthrough after Swalwell brought in his pastor for assistance.
Twist in the tale
In the meantime, the deputy himself tracked down Mick’s birth certificate. This confirmed that he had been born at the Highland Hospital in Oakland, CA. And in a surprising twist, the homeless man discovered that Mick was actually a shortening of his middle name! He had been originally named Gordon Michael Oakley. The surprises didn’t end there, either.
The right man for the job
The story then took an incredible turn. Mark Askins, an experienced private investigator, had watched a news report about Mick — and the whole thing was right in his wheelhouse. You see, in his downtime, he worked as a volunteer for a charity called Miracle Messages. And the not-for-profit’s objective is to reunite homeless people with any long-lost family they may have.
Mark goes digging
Armed with the information from the birth certificate — including the first name of Mick’s birth mother — Mark set to work. He started searching through records at the Alameda County Courthouse, hoping to find something on any surviving members of Mick’s family. And before long, the investigator struck gold. He came across a case file on a local woman named Marie Pauline Oakley.
Finally found his mom
Marie had been married as a teenager to Wiley Albert Oakley, a sailor from Alameda’s naval air station. But while the pair then went to live with the groom’s family in Tennessee, an unhappy Marie later returned to the East Bay and had the marriage annulled. She went to live with her mother, bringing a toddler son — and a yet-to-be-born Mick in her belly.
Now called Polly
Hot on the trail, Mark traced Marie to Humboldt County, CA. Best of all? He discovered that she was still alive — and went by the name of Polly. “I’ve often wondered what might have happened to him,” Polly said of Mick to KPIX-TV. “But at the same time, I just assumed he had a good family because that’s what I had been told.”
Happy to hear the news
Mick had been very ill as a baby, and his penniless mom could not afford the life-saving surgery. So, upon the advice of her mother, Polly had given up the boy to a family at her church. All those years later, though, she was ecstatic to hear about her son. And she was more than eager to reconnect with Mick.
Finally back together
With a supportive Swalwell by his side, Mick spoke on the phone with his mother for the first time. Then, a couple of weeks later, the pair flew to Humboldt County with Mark to complete a reunion 65 years in the making. The three of them were met off the plane by Mick’s niece, Shannon, and she drove them to Polly’s place.
Long time coming
Mick finally saw his mom again when he walked through her front door, and he received a long, warm hug. The humbled homeless man asked KPIX-TV, “Who’d have thought that something like this could have happened to anybody – let alone me!” After their embrace, mother and son looked at old family photos, including some of Mick as a toddler.
Guilt and sadness
However, Polly felt distraught and guilty when reflecting on Mick’s life. “I just felt so sad that I’m thinking of all the things that I did with my other kids — all the experiences that they had, things that they’ve done, the advantages that they had,” she explained to the KPIX-TV cameras. “And I felt so sad when he told me how he had been treated.”
A new family
Still, that isolation was over. After three decades alone, Mick finally found a family who was more than happy to accept him. It turned out that Polly had married three times and, including Mick’s brother, now had children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. And while the first reunion between mother and son was soon over, Polly offered Mick a place to stay in her house.
Means the world
Polly had said to her long-lost boy, “To have you puts a piece of my heart back and means the world to me.” Mick himself told KPIX-TV, “All this wondering all these years why this happened the way it did... That all seems to have disappeared now.” Thanks to his chance encounter with a compassionate cop, Mick can say goodbye to his wandering and wondering days.
A little bit of luck
Mick can hopefully lean on his new family, too, if times ever get tough again. That’s a privilege a lot of people don’t have. Instead, they have to rely on their wits to survive — perhaps panhandling like Mick or fellow homeless man Billy Ray Harris. But who knows? Sometimes a bit of luck may fall into the cup...
Surprise of his life
One day, Billy got the surprise of his life when he peered into his cup. He’d been begging for change on the streets of Kansas City, Missouri, and most people handed him a few quarters — maybe a dollar or two. But it looked as though someone had taken pity on him. They had been very generous indeed...
Regular on the sidewalk
Billy was a recognizable face to the locals, who’d often try to help him out with donations. But despite their generosity, it wasn’t enough to put a roof over his head. Instead, he had to sleep below a nearby bridge when the evenings drew in. Then he continued to show up in the same area once the sun rose, picking out his place on the sidewalk.
A fateful meeting
But everything changed when Sarah Darling crossed his path. A Kansas City resident, Sarah had reason to be cheerful as she strolled along the street one Friday in 2013. Her life seemed to be heading in an exciting direction after her engagement to partner Bill Krejci. Yet that bliss quickly turned on its head when she made a huge mistake.
Good deed gone wrong
You see, when Sarah spotted Billy on the sidewalk, she felt she had to give him some change. So, she emptied a few coins from her purse into his cup and went on her way. Unfortunately for her, though, her diamond engagement band slipped out of the purse and into the cup as well. Talk about a good deed gone wrong!
Didn’t see it at first
Neither Sarah nor Billy noticed the mistake at first. Billy carried on with his routine as normal, completely unaware of what was sitting in his cup. It wasn’t until the homeless man started to gather his things together at the end of the day that he realized what’d happened. “When I finally decided to leave, I got on my bike and dumped the change into my hand,” he told NBC in 2013. “And there was the ring.”
He had his doubts
Billy wasn’t jumping for joy at that point. He didn’t believe that the diamonds were genuine. And we can understand his doubts. After all, would someone be so generous that they’d willingly drop a valuable ring into a homeless man’s cup? It seems unlikely. At the same time, Billy weighed up the other side of the argument.
Worth a lot
Speaking to KCTV, Billy said, “The ring was so big [that] I knew if it was real, it had to be expensive.” Keeping that in mind, he decided to visit a pawn shop to have it examined. And he was hit with some jaw-dropping news. “[The ring] was really worth some money,” Billy told NBC. “Worth enough that [the appraiser] was ready to give me four grand right there on the spot.”
What would he do?
Think of the things Billy could’ve done with that kind of money! But that brings us to the key question: did he cash in? Would you? The idea certainly crossed his mind, but that’s as far as it got. “My grandfather was a reverend,” Billy explained. “He raised [me] from the time I was six months old, and thank the good Lord. It’s a blessing, but I do still have some character.”
While that was going on, Sarah still had no idea that the band was missing. In fact, she only noticed it was gone the next day. And, unsurprisingly, that discovery hit her hard. “It was horrible,” she later recalled to KCTV. “It was such a feeling of loss. It meant so much to me beyond just the financial value.”
Finding the man with the ring
Sarah didn’t just accept defeat, however. Once she realized what had happened, she returned to Billy’s chosen spot on the sidewalk. And while he didn’t seem to be around that day, she turned up there again — and this time, she saw Billy once more. The two of them were set to have a crucial confrontation.
Would she get it back?
Sarah later recalled the conversation to KCTV. She explained, “I asked [Billy], ‘I don’t know if you remember me, but I think I gave you something that’s very precious to me.’ And he says, ‘Was it a ring? Yeah, I have it, I kept it for you.’” Just like that, with a minimum of fuss, Sarah got her ring back. To say she was delighted would be a huge understatement!
Paying it forward
But this remarkable story didn’t end here, as Billy’s life was about to change in a major way. It all started when Sarah and her fiancé created an appeal on the website GiveForward.com. Sarah told Today, “We set a goal for $1,000. We set it up because a lot of people who had been touched by the story expressed interest in helping Billy Ray.”
Soon, Sarah and Bill’s fundraiser flew past the original goal. Incredibly, the total reached more than $100,000. Nope, that’s not a typo! Just think: Billy would’ve walked away with a mere $4,000 if he cashed in on the ring. He would’ve lost out on a fortune — and missed the outpouring of love and support that came his way.
A surprising friendship
Naturally, Bill got in touch with the homeless man to discuss what was happening. It even led to a surprising friendship. “We talked about a lot of things related to my family’s ring and the many donations. We talked about one day in the future [it] may be passed down to my daughter. We talked about how insanely positive all this has been,” he said on the GiveForward page.
Life-changing sum of money
When all was said and done, the page brought in over $190,000. That really is a life-changing sum of money. Billy went on to consult a laywer, who placed the cash into a trust account. Then, once that was sorted, he got spending! Now, he could afford a car and a place to call home.
Getting his new place in order
Yes, those nights spent under the bridge were a thing of the past. But Billy didn’t plan to rest on his laurels. For starters, his new place needed to be renovated, and he planned to do the work himself. Still, before he could really get going, he had a huge surprise — of the very best kind.
Back together with his family
After the TV coverage of Billy’s story, his family finally found out where he was! They’d lost contact with him more than a decade ago, and their attempts to locate him were only made harder by rumblings that he’d passed away. That obviously wasn’t the case, and Billy and his loved ones soon came back together in a highly emotional moment.
Smoothing things over
According to Billy himself, he was aiming to smooth things over with his relieved relatives after the reunion. And we don’t blame him. After all, they had a lot of catching up to do! Talking to Today, Billy also said, “When I think of the past, I think, ‘Thank God that it’s over.’ I mean, I feel human now.”
“This is what they call the American Dream”
Billy then beamed, “This is what they call the American Dream. I want to thank all the people that helped me out. I want them to see where all their efforts, blessings and kindness is going.” And for Sarah? Well, the situation couldn’t have turned out much better. She told Today, “Overall, it just makes me feel good. A lot of people came together to change this person’s life when he’s someone who really deserves that.”