9/07/2009

"Dad, I want you to be my best man."

Reaching Out
By Michael T. Smith

I first signed onto the internet in 1996. The first thing I did was search for writing groups. There were hundreds of them, but I wanted one with a chat room where I could correspond personally with writers.

The one I joined was special. I met many aspiring writers and a few established ones. In this group I met a young man named Dan (Not his real name). We became friends, and over the years I learned his life story. Dan is Korean and had been adopted by an American family. Dan was a young boy when his father left him and his mom. Later his mother slowly pushed him away from her.

At 18, Dan was on his own in the world. He worked two jobs and was going to school. He tried hard, but he was not making it. His two jobs were dragging his marks down. He would lose jobs when he tried to get his marks up. Dan was falling down and had no one to pick him up. He had no anchor. His family had abandoned him; life had abandoned him; his future a mountain too high to climb.

Dan latched onto me and began calling me his cyber dad.

A few years back Dan emailed me. He had reached his limit. He had lost another job. Juggling jobs and school had failed.He had dropped the "ball." With the loss of income he could not pay the rent for his tiny room. His landlord was going to throw him out.

Dan confessed to me that he was close to ending it all. Myself and another friend of his chipped together and sent him a couple hundred dollars to pay his rent. This was money I could not afford to give, but he needed it more than I did. Before I sent him the money, I went online and did a search of government agencies in the area where he lived. I mailed several government officials and told them I had a special request for someone in need.

I said, "I know this may seem strange, but I have a friend in need. I am a Canadian who belongs to an internet writing group. A young man I met there needs your help. He has lost his job and his landlord is throwing him out for non-payment of rent. He has been struggling with two jobs and school and has no family to help him. I believe he is considering suicide. I ask you for any assistance you can give."

Only one mailed back. She was a compassionate lady who mailed me a list of support and help groups. They included the suicide help line and a group that could assist him with work related assistance.

I mailed Dan the list and made him promise to use them before I sent him money. He promised he would, and he did. The groups did assist him. He got a new job and his future looked brighter. I also made him call every relative he could find for their help. He was skeptical, but did it. One kindly aunt gave him a room.

Dan was on his way.

This occurred in 1998. Dan and I moved on from there. We emailed once every few months, and he always called me Dad.

In December of 2003 Dan called me. He had met a young lady and he asked me if I would come to his wedding. The wedding was going to be in Kansas. I said I would love to be there to watch him get married. He replied, "Dad, you don't understand. I don't want you to just be there; I want you to be my best man."

I was floored. I had never met Dan before, but how could I refuse? In the spring of 2004 I flew to Kansas to give this young man his first hug from his cyber dad and had the honor of standing by his side as he took his new bride into his life.

I have been through a lot in my 45 years on this world. Some of it has been very hard and some of it has been wonderful. My visit to Kansas was one of the wonderful ones.

I learned a valuable lesson - reach out and touch someone and you will be touched back - give and you shall receive.

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I am posting this particular entry in my blog as a humble appreciation of a Canadian citizen who had shown a heroic spirit in trying to save a child during the tragedy of the SuperFerry 9 in the Philippines. He was one of the passengers of the sinking ship. He risked himself and was injured in the act, but nonetheless the child still didn't made it alive.

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