A 14-Year-Old Noticed His Classmate’s Small Meals, So He Asked His Mom To Help

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When Josette Duran’s son Dylan began asking for two lunches, the mom was puzzled. Was the 14-year-old still going hungry – even after eating the food she had packed for him? And why did he need double the amount rather than just a bit extra? In any case, Josette agreed to Dylan’s request. And when she finally found out the reason for the strange demand, it all finally made perfect sense.

Image: Facebook/Josette Duran

Josette and her son live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And while they’re now comfortably housed, this wasn’t always the case. In 2016 Josette told Albuquerque-based ABC affiliate KOAT, “[Deprivation] hits home to me because a few years ago, me and my son were homeless.” At that time, some extra supplies might have proved invaluable.

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Josette is a New Mexico native, too, originally hailing from the smaller city of Carlsbad. And the mom still respects her roots, as she explained to local newspaper the Current-Argus in 2017. She said to the publication, “I’ll never forget about where I came from. I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for Carlsbad.”

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Back in 2016, Josette was also a volleyball coach at Dylan’s school. But even though the mom is naturally very active, she’s also had to battle against a medical condition that completely divided doctors when she first presented with symptoms.

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Stomach aches plagued Josette in 2017, with the pain being so bad that it forced her to seek medical attention. Then, when she was finally seen by doctors, the experts had different ideas of what the cause of her agony might be. And at one point, Josette’s boyfriend discovered her in a terrible condition – parched and feeling incredibly fragile.

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In desperation, the mom’s partner took her to the doctor once more. And, finally, on this occasion she received a firm diagnosis: gastroparesis. But having a name for her condition didn’t really make Josette feel better. She could hardly eat or drink for weeks and was left severely weakened as a consequence.

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Gastroparesis is the term given to an often-serious affliction that means the stomach can’t be completely emptied. In essence, the effect is like having half the gut paralyzed. And while the starvation that gastroparesis causes can threaten life, luckily medication did help a little in Josette’s case.

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This was despite the fact that the condition led to Josette losing a lot of weight. But despite her struggles, the mom has still continued to live her life. In 2019 she even participated in the Señora New Mexico beauty pageant after having been selected as Señora Eddy County.

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Josette has thrived against the odds, in fact. In 2016 she told Today, “I was homeless a few years ago. I know how hard it is to ask for help. You get ashamed and feel embarrassed.” And that discomfort had left her keeping her and Dylan’s plight to herself, as she and her son “didn’t want anyone to know what was going on with [them].”

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Fast-forward to 2016, though, and Josette was living contentedly with Dylan. And at the time, the eighth-grader was fortunately far from a problem teenager. According to his mom, in fact, Dylan was a particularly kind and helpful 14-year-old.

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Perhaps that had something to do with Dylan’s upbringing. After all, when expanding on the teen’s supportive nature, Josette told the Current-Argus, “It’s just the way I was raised, and it’s the way I raised him.” And when Dylan was confronted with someone struggling, he therefore had no problem stepping up.

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Josette claimed, too, that she still performed acts of kindness as an adult. And she suggested other parents follow her lead, saying, “It starts at home. Ask your kids how they’re doing and ask how their friends are doing. We’ve got to teach our kids. It’s not too late to talk to your kids.”

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One of Josette’s generous gestures included packing encouraging notes from time to time in Dylan’s lunch. Typically, the teen was given a sandwich, a bag of chips, a drink and some fruit. Yet while that may seem like more than enough for a growing boy, Dylan ultimately started asking for more.

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And to begin with, Josette pondered the request. She wondered, for example, whether her son was going through one of the spurts in growth that teenagers often experience. If he felt that he needed double the fuel, then, Josette didn’t mind – and so she started sending him to school with a second helping of lunch.

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This went on for a while, in fact, before Josette finally decided to find out what was going on. One morning, as she stacked up the second sandwich, she asked Dylan why he was needing the extra rations, saying, “Are you not getting full, boo?” And although many may have been surprised at the 14-year-old’s explanation, it made total sense to Josette.

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According to his proud mom, Dylan was after all the product of his upbringing. Josette revealed to Today, “I was taught if you can’t be nice, then you be extra nicer, and I’ve always raised my son to be that way. I’ve always taught him to be kind and help others.”

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However, when Josette and Dylan’s story went viral, there were those who were somewhat skeptical of the New Mexico woman – not least because she’d uploaded images of the lunches to Facebook. But Josette claimed that her motives were pure; she just wanted to get others to give in turn. She added that she also had to give props to Dylan, whom she said had previously suffered bullying.

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In any case, Josette made a Facebook video to both lay out the whole story and share the consequence of her question to Dylan. And the reaction to the clip was quite astonishing, with the footage ultimately going viral and bringing worldwide attention to the mother-and-son duo as a result.

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Yes, the film was seen at least 20 million times on the Facebook page of news station KCCI, where it also received hundreds of thousands of shares. But Josette wasn’t in it for the publicity. Instead, as she explained to CNN in 2016, “I’m telling you this… not for praise or anything. I’m telling you because it’s pretty intense.”

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And during her Today interview, the mom further revealed what had motivated her to make her son’s actions public. She said, “We’ve been through some hardships together, so we know what that feels like, and we don’t want no one else to feel that way. So, we try to be proactive and help when we need to help. We don’t think twice about it.”

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But what exactly was all the fuss about? Well, Dylan’s response to the question about needing two lunches was both heartbreaking and sweet. According to Josette, he said, “It’s for this boy. He only eats a fruit cup for lunch.” Then, once that was out in the open, Dylan apparently had a request for his mother. He asked, “Can you make [the boy] lunch too? I don’t think he has lunch money.”

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Well, given her belief in being kind, Josette did not need asking twice. Indeed, she didn’t hesitate to agree to Dylan’s request, and ever since she had made it part of her routine to pack double helpings of food. She described her answer to Today, revealing, “So I said ‘Sure’ [to Dylan], and ever since then it became my normal.”

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Josette continued, “Dylan really is the most kindhearted and loving kid. When he asked me to make two lunches, I just did it.” And she was clear that she didn’t need any time to think about the request at all. She went on, “I didn’t ask any questions because – isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? We’re supposed to help people.”

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It seemed, moreover, that Dylan had become friends with a boy whose family had fallen on hard times. This classmate’s mom had become unemployed and could no longer pay for lunch at school. And news of this desperate plight had struck a chord with Josette, as it had brought her own previous struggles flooding back.

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Talking to KOAT, Josette said, “This hits home to me, because a few years ago me and my son were homeless. I was living in my car, and I was washing [Dylan] in bathrooms. And we didn’t have food.” So, now that her troubles were long over, she felt that she was in a position to pay it forward.

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For weeks, then, Dylan would go to school with two lunches in his bag. Eventually, though, the need for the second batch of food ended when the boy got government help. Josette later told Today, “I stopped making two lunches last Wednesday, and it feels kind of lonely not making two anymore.”

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Nonetheless, word of how generous Josette had been eventually got to the mom whose son had been receiving the free food. She then got on the phone to Josette and offered to pay for what she had provided. But the kindly New Mexican was not interested at all in taking the stranger’s money.

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At first, Josette was even a little bit nervous about meeting the mom in person. Explaining how the encounter had gone down on Facebook, Dylan’s mother subsequently wrote on Facebook, “[The other boy’s mom] says, ‘I know this isn’t much, but I just got a job, and I know you’ve been feeding my son.’”

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It seemed feasible, too, that the other woman may have reacted negatively. In her social media post, Josette suggested why, writing, “Because in this day and age, when you try to help somebody, some people get offended by it. People aren’t used to kindness.” And the possibility of having antagonized someone else with her actions had made Josette anxious.

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However, there was no such confrontation, as the other mom was simply grateful for the kindness that Josette had shown her son. Dylan’s parent continued, “I didn’t want [the mom] to think that I was stepping on her toes or crossing boundaries, but she was very, very thankful and told me so. She told me how much she appreciated what we did.”

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Eventually, the state stepped in, and Dylan’s buddy started to get lunch from the federal program. And Josette reflected on the whole affair while talking to Inside Edition in 2016, explaining, “Being kind doesn’t have to come in monetary form. Just know that if you’re having a good day, someone else is having a bad day, and you should fix that.”

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But while Josette certainly walked the walk, she was humble about her actions. In her Facebook video, she noted, “I don’t think I did anything special.” In fact, in the mom’s opinion, such a kind gesture is just what she’d expect from anyone. She added in the clip, “I just think I did what a human being is supposed to do.”

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Meanwhile, while some may have asked how the school could allow a child to go without food, Josette told Today that she didn’t blame the institution. Instead, she claimed, “That school would never let any child go hungry. They take care of everybody, but this little boy was probably too embarrassed. He didn’t want to speak up.”

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And it seemed that Josette’s kindness was contagious, as the volleyball team she coached followed the example that she had set and performed their own good deed. Ultimately, the girls collected $400 to pay Josette back for the money spent on the lunches that she had prepared.

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But Josette didn’t want the funds that the team had raised. Instead of putting the cash into her own pocket, then, she paid it into the school’s cafeteria. And the $400 cleared all the arrears on students’ accounts, freeing them to purchase lunches all over again. Josette noted in her Facebook video, “Now they can all eat.”

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And, unfortunately, Dylan’s friend is not the only one to struggle to get sufficient food. The No Kids Hungry Campaign says that in the U.S., 62 percent of educators report that children attend their classes in a state of hunger as they aren’t fed enough in their homes. The gap is made up a little by federal programs and donations.

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Given this food deficit, Dylan and Josette’s kindness is especially stunning. And Josette, who had always been a huge fan of her son, was left bursting with pride in him. She explained as much on Facebook, too, saying, “My cup runneth over.”

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Josette was also left with broader hopes that her story may inspire others. She said to Today, “It doesn’t have to do with lunch. It could just be saying, ‘Hi’ to someone or opening the door or saying, ‘Yes, ma’am’ or ‘No, ma’am.’ It’s just about practicing kindness whenever possible.”

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Fortunately, at least one other individual took notice. After Jerry Fenton of Burlington, Iowa, saw Josette and Dylan’s story, he paid $700 to the elementary school that he himself had gone to many years before. And explaining his kind gesture, Fenton later told local ABC affiliate WCVB, “I am not a rich person by any means, but I had a little extra. And I thought, ‘Well, it’s going to go further helping others.’”

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The money that Fenton donated ultimately cleared the accounts of 89 kids who were in arrears. There was even a bit left over for the remainder of the year. And about this, Fenton explained, “I felt very good about doing my part, and I hope others might be inspired like I was.” Certainly, the students at Grimes Elementary School received a great lesson in the value of kindness.

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And this proves that Josette and Dylan certainly aren’t the only kind folks out there. In fact, good-hearted people are all around us – just ask Michael Myers. While the homeless man may have had much to fear in his encounter with a California cop, the officer ended up completely changing his life.

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This wasn’t Deputy Sheriff Jacob Swalwell’s first encounter with Myers, and the law enforcement agent had had enough. The homeless man had repeatedly been warned about begging for cash, after all. But here was Myers doing this exact thing in his same spot in Hayward, California. So Swalwell squared up to Myers once more, and this time he meant business. Yet after the sheriff’s deputy asked Myers a routine question, the panhandler gave a surprising answer – and it led both men on a quest to reveal the truth about Myers’ identity.

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At first, though, Swalwell had come down hard on Myers. As the homeless man explained to San Francisco station KPIX in 2017, the official had told him in no uncertain terms, “You can’t be on this freeway anymore, and I’m going to write you a ticket.” There was something else that Myers had had to do, too.

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Yes, Swallwell had demanded that the other man present a form of identification – an order that had ultimately been denied. The wiry figure in front of the deputy had claimed, in fact, that he didn’t actually have any ID on him. And this had puzzled Swalwell. “I immediately asked [of Myers], ‘Why don’t you have an ID?’” he recalled to KPIX in 2018.

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Swalwell had also wondered why Myers hadn’t just applied for social security instead of panhandling near the freeway. The man’s response, however, may have opened the cop’s eyes to the harsh reality of life for some under his jurisdiction. “I can’t get [social security] because I can’t even get an ID,” Myers had replied.

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And owing to this exchange, Swalwell launched his own investigation into the individual whom he had stopped on the street. That decision would ultimately take both he and Myers on an unexpected journey. And it would result in the kind of ending that wouldn’t be entirely out of place in a Hollywood movie.

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But who is Myers, and how had he come to be living rough on the streets? Where is his family, and why was it that he had no ID? Well, although Myers’ story may be unique, the circumstances in which he’d found himself provide a real insight into why many end up sleeping outside all over the U.S.

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It turned out, for one, that Myers’ life had been difficult from the start. He had been adopted at a young age, and his experience of the family that he had been brought into had been mixed. While his new mom had cared for and appreciated him, you see, his adoptive siblings had practically turned their backs on their brother. The rest of the clan hadn’t been particularly receptive to Myers, either.

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Then, after the California native left high school, he began driving trucks for a living. But after his adoptive parents passed away – and Myers lost any friends he had once had – he found himself alone and relying completely on himself. Life was about to become a lot harder for Myers, too.

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Ultimately, then, Myers ended up on the streets – as so many people do. According to official data, in fact, January 2019 saw 8,022 people sleeping rough or utilizing shelters in Alameda County, CA, alone. In neighboring San Francisco, meanwhile, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has reported that, as of 2019, there are 8,011 homeless people in the city. That’s a rise of around 17 percent in two years.

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But while Myers may have been in the same predicament, he bucks several preconceptions that many hold about the types of people who find themselves homeless. The former truck driver doesn’t have any problems with alcohol abuse, for one thing, nor does he use narcotics or smoke. He has no prior criminal record, either, and is not mentally ill.

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And at 67 years of age, Myers is also a senior. In an ideal world, then, Myers should have been enjoying his retirement – yet he was struggling to scrape together enough money to eat. The Californian had no one to share his days with nor did he have a roof over his head.

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But, as previously mentioned, Myers was not on the street because he was an addict; instead, it was all apparently down to sheer bad luck. And it seems that – like many homeless people – he felt practically invisible to others, too. “Most of the people [around me] just hurry by and don’t even give me a glance,” Myers told KPIX in 2018.

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To help raise some cash, then, Myers took to panhandling and busking outside a subway station with his guitar. And, of course, in that time he had been noticed by local law enforcement officers – including Swalwell. “I had given [Myers] so many warnings,” the sheriff’s deputy explained to KPIX.

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Upon questioning Myers during the incident noted earlier, though, Swalwell was stunned to discover that Myers’ lack of ID had left him in administrative limbo. And after learning that Myers was unable to receive any government assistance as a result, the official decided to intervene on the other man’s behalf.

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Speaking to KPIX in 2018, Myers remembered Swalwell saying, “Well, you’ve got somebody to help you now. I’m going to help you get your ID so you can get your social security and get off the street.” At the time that Swalwell offered to assist the homeless man, though, the sheriff’s deputy gravely underestimated just how difficult that task would be.

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In order to qualify for an ID card in Alameda County, you see, a citizen is required to provide two types of proof of residency in California as well as a birth certificate. And unfortunately, Myers had none of those items to hand – partly, of course, because he was of no fixed abode.

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To make matters worse, there was no longer any record of Myers ever having had a driver’s license – despite his previous career. And even Swalwell was initially left scratching his head at the conundrum. “How does a homeless person come up with two forms of residency?” the deputy pondered, according to KPIX.

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Thankfully, though, Swalwell was eventually able to come up with a plan that successfully enabled Myers to obtain what he was looking for. The official in fact asked both his employer, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, and his church to vouch that Myers was a resident of Alameda County. And thanks to that help, the homeless man was then on the way to securing identification for the first time in years.

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As Swalwell continued, however, the officer also found something that Myers had never clapped eyes on before: his own birth certificate. This was a momentous discovery – and not only because it could help the man finally acquire some ID. For Myers, you see, the information given on the document provided an answer that had eluded him for decades.

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Myers had known that he hadn’t grown up with his biological parents – although that in itself had been a revelation many years ago. “I didn’t even know I was adopted until I was 16,” he revealed while talking to KPIX in 2018. Still, getting access to his birth certificate for the very first time meant that Myers was finally able to piece some of the jigsaw pieces of his life together.

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The panhandler discovered, for example, that he had entered the world in Oakland’s Highland Hospital – right in the heart of Alameda County. And as a consequence, Myers truly could call this part of the world home. The document also mentioned his adoptive parents by name.

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That’s when Swalwell’s actions came to the attention of KPIX, which first covered the feel-good tale in 2017. And while talking to the station, the sheriff’s deputy opened up about his quest. “I started to get to know more about [Myers] and realized that he didn’t need a citation; he needed someone to help him,” Swalwell claimed.

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Myers added, “We both realized at the same time that there’s a real person there – and not just a stereotype we saw when we first met each other.” When KPIX aired its segment on Swalwell and Myers’ heartwarming tale, though, a viewer at home decided that he would step in, too.

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Yes, after becoming acquainted with Myers’ plight, private investigator Mark Askins chose to get involved. Askins is, you see, a part of the organization Miracle Messages, which seeks to put homeless people back in touch with their nearest and dearest. And according to the P.I., a comment that Myers had given during the press coverage had stayed with him. “[Myers] kept saying, ‘I’m lonely. I don’t have anybody in my life,’” Askins later recalled to KPIX.

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So, after getting the go-ahead from Myers, Askins put his skills to the test by digging into the 67-year-old’s past. And, fortunately, the investigator had a little information to go on, too. Myers had shared, for instance, that his birth name had been Oakley; he also believed that his birth mother had been called Nicole.

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Consequently, Askins headed to the Alameda County Courthouse to pore through family records. And it was there that he began to unravel the mystery that was Myers’ background. During an interview with KPIX, Askins revealed some pertinent information regarding the homeless man’s lost relatives. “Here, we have a case involving Wiley Albert Oakley and a Marie Pauline Oakley,” he told the station, referring to a particular document.

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Then, after noting the relevant case numbers, Askins perused microfilm records and unearthed vital information about Marie Pauline Oakley – Myers’ birth mother. It seems that, at only 16 years of age, Oakley had eloped with a sailor stationed at the nearby Naval Air Station Alameda. Tying the knot in Reno, the couple had subsequently settled in the sailor’s home state of Tennessee.

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Then, some time after, Oakley returned home accompanied by a son – and pregnant once more. Her mother also decided that she would try to legally end Oakley’s marriage. The young woman’s mom actually angled for an annulment on the grounds that at the time of the elopement, Oakley had not been 18 – the age of consent in California.

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Yet even though Askins seemed to have struck gold with his discovery, he still needed to find Oakley herself. And given that Myers, her son, was a senior, it was very possible that Oakley may have already passed away. As luck would have it, though, Askins uncovered a phone number that looked as though it belonged to the right person: one Marie Pauline Oakley, who lived in Humboldt County.

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Happily, that woman was indeed Myers’ mother. And upon discovering that the child whom she had given up for adoption – the same baby she had been carrying upon her return to the Bay Area – had been looking for her, Oakley – now known as Polly – had no doubts that she wanted to see him.

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First, though, a call was arranged between the two. And, appropriately, Myers’ end of the conversation took place at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, where he was accompanied by Swalwell. Askins was present, too, when Myers finally reconnected with his mom after decades apart.

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“This is David Charles Oakley,” opened Myers, using his birth name. And the response was overwhelming. “My son!” Oakley exclaimed. And while the call may have provided a heart-warming moment for all listening in, it no doubt meant so much more to the homeless man and his birth mother, who lived only 300 miles or so away.

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So, during the rest of the call, the mom and son chatted, starting to fill in the gaps of the intervening decades. There may have been questions on Myers’ part, too. Why had Oakley put her child up for adoption all those years ago? And what had ultimately led to the decision that had changed Myers’ life?

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Eventually, then, Oakley recalled the events of that time – ones that had begun when she had arrived in the Smoky Mountains as a young bride. Back then, her new husband had been frequently absent, leaving her in the hands of her mother-in-law for weeks at a time. It turned out, too, that the older woman had been manipulating and cruel, and she had had no qualms about keeping Oakley hungry and in extreme poverty. So, after having done everything she could to protect and feed herself and her first-born, the teenager had plucked up enough courage to return to her mother in California.

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After Myers had been born and had grown to become a toddler, though, his mom received some devastating news: the little boy had a hole in his stomach. And, sadly, there was no way Oakley could raise the funds for the operation that her son so badly required. “My back was against the wall. I had to do what was best for him. I could have never afforded that surgery. I had no idea – if he didn’t get the surgery, would he die?” Oakley explained to KPIX in 2018.

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But Oakley’s own mom had found the answer: adoption. And a family who attended her church had been happy to take the boy in, and Oakley had thus decided that the best option was to give her son up. Yet even after these details had been divulged, it wasn’t the end of the story for Myers and Oakley. Just a couple of weeks after that momentous phone call, you see, the homeless man was on a flight to finally reunite with his birth mother.

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Myers met his stepfather, too, as well as a whole host of other relatives that he hadn’t even known existed just a matter of weeks before. “He didn’t just get a mom! He had a whole family, and they all descended him at one time,” Oakley revealed while talking to KPIX.

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Touchingly, Oakley added of her son, “He’s suddenly discovered he has family when he thought he was alone in the world. I have one more person to love.” And Myers himself struggled to grasp the chain of events that had led him to this moment. “Who’d have thought that something like this could have happened to anybody – let alone me!” he exclaimed to KPIX.

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But, of course, Myers hadn’t reached this point alone; Swalwell and Askins had helped along the way. And Oakley was especially effusive in her praise for the law enforcement officer. “I want to see where your wings are, because you brought my son home to me,” the grateful mom told the deputy.

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After that, too, Myers started to get the support he needs – including health coverage – as a disabled senior citizen. He also put in an application to receive social security. And, best of all, he now has a family to call his own – thanks, of course, to the kindness of two strangers.

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