From the day he was born, Mick Myers’s life was full of hardships and disappointments. His biological mom gave him away as a baby. He lost touch with his new family and was fired from his job as a truck driver. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, Mick found himself living on the streets of California as a panhandler.
But, one day, his life was completely changed after he was stopped by a police officer who was just doing his job. The police officer not only helped Mick stand on his own two feet, but he also helped him uncover secrets about his past.
This is the story about how one police officer’s actions helped a man discover his true identity.
Mick didn’t know he was adopted until he was sixteen. His biological mother gave him away when he was a baby, and he was adopted by the Myers family in California. The Myers already had a few kids, but they wanted an even bigger family. Growing up in San Leandro, California, Mick was a typical shy kid. He was an introvert and usually stayed out of other people’s way.
He had a few close friends, played in the Pacifica High marching band, and was generally liked by his peers. To everyone else, Mick’s life seemed great. He had friends to hang out with and parents who loved him. However, things at home weren’t as perfect as they seemed.
Mick was generally quiet and not as outgoing as his friends or other siblings. His adoptive mother gave him lots of love and affection, but she was the only one out of the Myers family that did. Mick was not close to the rest of his adoptive family. In fact, he had a hard time socializing with them and always felt like an outsider.
It didn’t help that his siblings always ignored him, leaving him to spend most of his time at home alone in his room. Although Mick was never able to make a good connection with his adoptive siblings and father, his mother tried everything she could to make Mick feel loved and taken care of. But what his future held in store was never what he expected.
It goes without saying that Mick felt isolated and even abandoned by his adoptive family. He told reporters later that he was “living a life as alone as a person could possibly be.” Although he was generally liked in school and made a few friends here and there, Mick never made any real connections.
Then when he was 16 years old, Mick received some surprising news. He found out that he was adopted. This turned his whole world upside down. On the one hand, Mick felt as if he finally had an answer as to why his siblings never really liked him or wanted to spend time with him, but, on the other hand, it made him feel even less alone than he was before.
After finishing high school, Mick lost contact with the few friends he had, and things only kept getting worse from there. He felt like no one loved him and didn’t have the support of a family. He wanted to make something of himself; he just didn’t know where to start.
Then just when Mick thought things couldn’t get any worse, both of his adoptive parents passed away, leaving him completely alone. He lost the only people in the world that actually cared for him. After his parents’ death, Mick found himself in a hard position. Within a few days, his siblings completely cut off contact with him. They made sure Mick knew that they were done with him.
With nowhere to turn, Mick realized that he was going to have to look after himself from now on. Mick eventually found a job as a truck driver. He was finally able to make some money, put a roof over his head, and food on the table. After a rough start, he was getting his life back on track.
The only problem with truck driving was that it isolated him even more. The long shifts driving from state to state didn’t offer many opportunities to meet new people or make new friends. After a while, loneliness crept back into Mick’s life. One thing led to another, and he lost his job as a truck driver.
A lifetime of feeling lost and isolated began to take its toll on Mick. With no family or friends to turn to, he had nowhere to go but the streets of California. It was hard at first, but Mick adjusted quickly to life on the streets. During his first few years, he made money playing his guitar and singing to people walking on the sidewalk in San Leandro, California.
Music was a safe haven for Mick. All of his troubles seemed to disappear when he played, but it became apparent that other people didn’t appreciate his talents. “Most of the people just hurry by and don’t even give me a glance,” he explained. This made Mick feel even more alone.
Mick tried to get off the streets, but without a support system or outside help, Mick was stuck. He was barely making enough money to eat and, so, his life of isolation continued. Days turned into weeks, and weeks became months, and before he knew it, Mick had been on the streets for nearly three decades.
At some point along the way, Mick started to believe that he was meant to live on the streets. It was the path God chose for him, and he had no way of escaping his destiny. When Mick wasn’t playing his guitar for people passing by, he was panhandling next to the highway. That’s where he met the police officer who changed his life forever.
Deputy Sheriff Jacob Swalwell of Alameda County knew Mick Myers as the homeless guy who begs for money on the highway. He warned him to stop panhandling several times, but Mick always came back the next day. Mick didn’t want to bother anyone or cause any trouble, but he was in survival mode. He needed to make money to afford one hot meal a day.
Deputy Swalwell noticed that his warnings were falling on deaf ears. It didn’t matter how many times he told Mick to stop panhandling, he always returned. Deputy Swalwell realized that he was going to have to push a little bit harder to get his message across. So one day, he approached Mick intending to write a ticket.
Deputy Swalwell asked Mick for an identification card so he could write up a citation. Mick, however, didn’t have an ID. “I had given him so many warnings, and I asked him for his ID, and he said he didn’t have one,” the sheriff told CBS This Morning. “And I immediately asked, ‘Why don’t you have an ID?’”
What happened next would change Mick’s life forever. Deputy Swalwell and Mick started talking, and that’s when he learned the real story about the homeless man’s life. Like many people, the sheriff wrongly assumed that Mick had ended up on the streets after a life of crime or addiction. But after speaking with Mick, Deputy Swalwell quickly learned that wasn’t the case for him.
The more the sheriff spoke with Mick, the more he learned about his life. “I learned more that he was disabled and had been homeless for 30 years. He was not an alcoholic; he did not use drugs; he did not use tobacco,” Deputy Swalwell told CBS. “He was just a senior citizen on his own,” Mick explained that he ended up on the streets due to an unlucky string of circumstances.
Aside from panhandling, he never broke the law and had never been addicted to drugs. He was homeless simply because he couldn’t afford rent and lacked a support system. Because Mick didn’t have an ID card, he could not receive social security benefits, so Deputy Swalwell decided to do the right thing and help him get one.
The sheriff thought it would be easy to get Mick an ID card. What he didn’t know, however, was that the application process was much more complicated than he expected. The first stop on Deputy Swalwell’s list was the DMV. Mick explained to the sheriff that he used to have a driver’s license from his truck driving days, so it seemed that this was the perfect place to start.
In order to apply for a driver’s license, you need to have any form of ID that has your picture, name, and your date of birth. So the two men assumed that since Mick had applied for one in the past, the DMV had all of his documents on file.
Unfortunately for Mick, the DMV had nothing on file. Decades had passed since he first applied for a driver’s license, and the DMV had no record of it. Deputy Swalwell and Mick realized they had a long road ahead of them. They now needed to track down all of Mick’s original documents, which seemed nearly impossible.
Since Mick was adopted and homeless, he had no idea where to start, but luckily he was in good hands. Deputy Swalwell was not the kind of man to give up easily. Even though the task at hand was now more complicated than he initially expected, he was determined to get Mick his social security benefits and off of the streets. Mick and the deputy quickly got to work.
Deputy Swalwell understood that Mick needed proof of residency in the state of California in order to apply for an ID. Since he didn’t have a driver’s license and the DMV had nothing on file, Mick needed to provide a birth certificate and two other documents that proved he lived in California.
But he didn’t have any of those documents. The only way for Mick to get off the streets was to apply for an ID but to apply for an ID, he needed proof of residence. It was a catch-22. By now, Mick was used to disappointment. He was ready to give up and return to his life on the streets, but Deputy Swalwell did not back down quite as easily.
The sheriff knew he could find a way to get Mick his ID, he just didn’t know-how. So he did what anyone in this situation would do. He called his pastor. Deputy Swalwell explained Mick’s situation and asked him to help them gather all the necessary documents Mick needed to prove he was a resident of the state of California.
While the pastor got to work, Deputy Swalwell personally began tracking down Mick’s birth certificate. After a long search, he finally got his hands on it and learned something about Mick along the way. Although his biological parents’ names weren’t listed on the birth certificate, his birth name was. Mick’s birth parents named him Gordon Michael Oakley.
After a lot of time and effort from both Deputy Swalwell and his pastor, Mick finally received his ID card. The local news station caught wind of Mick’s story and wanted to run a news story about the sheriff’s act of kindness. “We both realized at the same time that there is a real person there and not just the stereotype we saw when we first met each other,” Mick told the reporters.
Deputy Swalwell then added, “if it’s something as simple as helping them just to get them back on their feet by getting them an ID so they can get some state or government, federal benefits, then it’s the least we can be doing as law enforcement officers.”
Mick’s story could have ended there if it wasn’t for Mark Askins, a private investigator who saw Mick’s story on the news. Mark worked for a non-profit organization called Miracle Messages, which helps homeless people reunite with their loved ones. Mick’s case was a bit more complicated because he was adopted, but Mark decided to take it on anyways.
Although Mick finally experienced some good luck after meeting Deputy Swalwell, he thought that his good luck stopped with him receiving social security benefits. He wasn’t too optimistic that Mark would find anything about his biological parents. Just like Deputy Swalwell, Mark didn’t back down. He began digging through Mick’s past, looking for anything that connected him to a living relative. Could Mick finally find his family after all of these years?
Mark used Mick’s birth name, Gordon Michael Oakley, to find anything he could that would link him to his biological family. After an intense search, Mark finally found the name of Mick’s biological mother. Her name was Marie Pauline Oakley, but she went by Polly. Not only was she alive and well, but she also lived only 250 miles away in nearby Humboldt County.
Mark gathered all the information he could find and shared it with Mick, who couldn’t believe his ears. He was in his late 60s and had given up hope of meeting his biological family years ago. But Mark’s job didn’t end here. No, he had a much bigger surprise in store for Mick. He was going to reunite Mick with his biological mother.
Marie Pauline Oakley, or Polly as she likes to be called, met Mick’s father, Wiley Albert Oakley, when she was only 16 years old. They got married in Reno, Nevada, before moving to Tennessee, where things were far from peaceful. The Oakleys lived in a cabin that was infested with snakes and other small animals.
Since the Oakleys had a newborn at home, Polly had to stay home to take care of the baby. Although Wiley had a job as a sailor, he gave all of his salary to his mother, leaving nothing for his wife and child at home. “There was a bed for me to sleep in, but there was no crib for the baby. I had to put two chairs together and put a food locker on it,” Marie told reporters.
The only help Polly received from her mother-in-law was formula for the baby. Polly herself would often steal vegetables from her neighbor’s garden because there was no food at home. That’s when Polly decided that she wanted a different life. Pregnant and with a toddler, Polly left her husband in Tennessee and went to the San Francisco Bay Area in California to live with her mother.
When Polly arrived, her mother didn’t recognize her. “My life was not what I expected out of a marriage,” Marie recalled. A few months after moving in with her mother, Polly gave birth to her second child, Gordon Michael. Unfortunately, Polly’s problems didn’t stop there. When Gordon Michael was only two years old, doctors discovered some devastating news.
Polly knew something was wrong with her second-born, she just didn’t know what. No matter what she did, he wouldn’t stop crying. One day she decided that enough was enough and took Gordon Michael to the doctor’s office, where they found a life-threatening hole in his stomach. Polly’s heart sank. She knew that she would never be able to afford the surgery that her child needed.
With the encouragement of her mother and nowhere else to turn, Polly made the most difficult decision of her life. She handed Gordon Michael over to a family from a local church who was looking to adopt. “My back was against the wall,” Polly said. “I had to do what was best for him.”
When Polly gave her baby away, she hoped that his new family would be able to provide him with everything that she couldn’t. She always wondered what happened to Gordon Michael, but she never thought that his life would turn out the way it did. Mick had no idea why his biological parents gave him up for adoption, and he had given up looking for them years ago.
The first time Polly and Mick spoke with each other was on the phone. Mick was so nervous that he was fumbling over his words, but Polly was overjoyed. She couldn’t believe that after all of these years she was finally speaking to her son. They spoke for a while, and, after two weeks, Mick boarded a flight that would take him to Polly.
Mick had never flown on a plane before, and he was a little nervous, but Deputy Swalwell and Mark were by his side the entire time. Miracle Messages set up the flight, which was operated by volunteers who were excited to reunite Mick with his mother. When the plane landed, Mick was picked up by a woman who introduced herself as his niece, Shannon. Not only did Mick have a new mother, but he also had a new sibling.
During his phone conversation with Polly, he learned that she had not only remarried and had more children, she also had grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. Years after giving up hope and accepting his life in solitude, Mick finally had a big family who loved and accepted him for who he was. What he didn’t know was that more good news was on its way.
When Shannon pulled into the driveway with Mick, Polly embraced him before he even walked into the house. The only possessions Mick had were his high school yearbook and a new guitar, which was a gift from Deputy Swalwell. Polly was devastated to hear about Mick’s life story, but she was happy that they were finally reunited after all those years.
“Who’d have thought that something like this could have happened to anybody, let alone me!” Mick said. Polly and Mick agreed that they would spend the holidays together before he went back to San Leandro. Thanks to Deputy Swalwell, Mick now had an ID and social security. Polly even offered for him to come live with her and her husband until he got back onto his feet.
Without Deputy Sheriff Jacob Swalwell, none of this would have happened. Mick wouldn’t have gotten off the streets, nor would he have found his biological parents. This whole experience also changed the way that he viewed people in Mick’s situation. It would have been easy to dismiss Mick as a burden to society, but the sheriff knew better.
“It has opened my eyes to others in Mick’s situation,” Deputy Swalwell said. Mark agreed and added, “All of us is family, and all of us is somebody’s someone.” This whole story started with a kind act by one man who went out of his way to help a man in need. What started off as helping Mick apply for an ID turned into Mick locating and reuniting with his biological family, a family that finally accepted him.
Now, this next story is even crazier. Deland McCullough spent his entire life knowing he was adopted, but his biological family was closer than he ever thought