Late yesterday afternoon, my dad walked into the house, and said hello. Mom and I were sitting there having one of our “solve the world problem”’s sessions at her desk – with me in the old rocking chair.
We were chatting about this and that when Daddy sat at his desk, and turned on his computer. As has been his routine for many years, he caught up on the day’s events while surfing the credible news sites.
In a minute, he turned to us, and said, “Look, there is a picture of me and my hat on CNN.”
For those that don’t know my dad, he has a dry sense of humor and brings great delight – really – to Mom and I. Mom and I looked at each other, and being the nosy women we are, we got up from our chairs and walked across the room.
At first glance, the picture of the man with the winter toboggan on top of his head, the tanned skin and the pure white beard and dark clothes did look like my dad.
Mom and I both had to look twice. After sharing a laugh, we went back to our separate corners, and I walked back to my house – which is not far from their back door.
That picture didn’t leave my mind. I searched for it on CNN. Using the photo-editing program on my computer, I put a photo of my dad and the man on the CNN site side by side, and my heart did a flip-flop.
John Meade, the man in the picture, could have been my dad. My dad, James Holland, is 86 years old. His beard is pure white. His skin is rugged and he is tanned.
Here is where the story differs. John Meade lived in St. Augustine, Florida – or at least, that is where he breathed his last breath last year.
Not much was known about Mr. Meade. As reported by various media outlets, he was homeless.
People say he did not fit the “Hollywood,” “stereo-typical” idea of a homeless man – he never asked for anything or bothered anyone.
In an interview with CNN about John Meade, Officer Steven Fischer, of the St. Augustine Police Department, said, “You could sit and talk with him for an hour or 10 minutes … it didn’t matter to John. He was just there.”
When he died, police didn’t have anyone to call to let them know of John Meade’s passing. After researching and trying to find any information about family, the St. Augustine Police Department, in particular, Officer Fischer, came up empty-handed.
People in the community knew of him because he was just personable and outgoing – in spite of his situation – whatever it was. No one really knew, because he didn’t talk about himself.
Fischer did find something though – John Meade was honorably discharged from the United States Army, after serving from 1966-68.
The news stories went on to talk about how different groups came together to make sure that John Meade had a proper burial befitting a veteran – and it happened on January 17 at the Jacksonville National Cemetery.
I sighed after I read the story. I took a second glance at that photo. Then I looked at the one of my dad. I was all up in my feelings then – things could have been different for John Meade, you know?
There was obviously so much more to John Meade’s story than anyone knew.
I looked at the picture. I read the words in the news articles about his burial and what little they knew about him.
I looked at my dad’s picture. There are things, even though in a few days, he will have been my dad for 50 years, that I don’t know about my dad.
Look at the person who sits near you at work. See the person in the line behind you at Walmart or Dollar Tree. Have you ever chatted with the person taking your order at Dairy Queen or Jalapeno Tree? What about your barber? Your garbage man?
Everyone has a story. And if their story is told right, chances are, you will see, as Frederick Buechner once wrote, “that in many ways, it could be your story.”
Time passes so quickly. Change is going to happen no matter how hard we fight it or try to hide from it.
Take the time to connect with someone today – and I don’t mean on social media. Take a minute, say hello, say nice shirt, say I like your shoes or just start a conversation. You never know what a difference that connection could do for that person or even yourself.
Everyone’s story is important … Even John Meade’s.
(c)CNN, The Augustine Record and Jacksonville TV stations should be credited as sources for information about this editorial, and for the photo.