A homeless man pictured on the cover of a book looks skyward as snow drifts down. He looks as if he’s hoping for a better day. The title of the book is “Unexpected Christmas Hero” by Kathi Macias. I downloaded the book onto my Kindle reader, and since the book contained a fictional work, I assumed that the cover featured a model for the photo, but that’s when I heard more about the cover.
A photographer, who currently works with Christian publisher New Hope’s cover design team, found a homeless man in Ashville, North Carolina and asked if he would allow him to take pictures of him for possible use on a book cover. The homeless man Willard Parker agreed. As the photographer Michael Lê and his wife Christine took pictures, Mr. Parker told some of his story.
He has acute leukemia and is not in good health. He lost his home and eventually ended up homeless. On the streets, his constant search is for a place to pillow his head at night and looking for food to eat. He lost touch with his two daughters and grandchildren, and later told someone, "When I had my picture taken for the book cover, all I wanted was for it to help me get back with my family. It worked, and I'm really grateful." He signed a release for the company to use his photo, and when the author heard the story, she wanted to assist him in reuniting with his family and set up a financial fund to help with travel expenses.
“Unexpected Christmas Hero” released in mid-October, and a copy eventually fell into the hands of someone who knew one of Willard Parker’s daughters, 26-year-old Amber. Looking online, she found the book cover and wept. It was her daddy.
However, she didn’t know how to contact him or where to find him. Mr. Parker’s ex-wife was driving near Ashville one day, spotted Willard Parker, and picked him up. Since then he has spoken to both his daughters by phone, Amber and Rebecca, but they haven’t had the miracle of a reunion. Mr. Parker is presently in Toledo, Ohio, according to Christian News Service.
Author Kathi Macias and I have corresponded about Mr. Parker. From her, I found that Michael Lê and his wife Christine treated Mr. Parker with respect and as an equal during and after the photo session. Their respect helps introduce the eighteenth rule of humble living written by Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667). In the language of his day, Taylor wrote, “Upbraid no man’s weakness to him to discomfort him, neither report it to disparage him, neither delight to remember it to lessen him or to set thyself above him.”
The respect involved in reuniting Mr. Parker with his family warms me all the way down to my tiptoes. I found out from the photographer that he was about to give up hunting for an appropriate subject for the book cover when his wife felt strongly that they should drive to a specific part of town. That’s where they discovered Mr. Parker.
All involved felt that God put them on a specific path, so he could reunite a father with his children and grandchildren. God remains faithful in his work today as he breaches gaps in families and capably reunites sons and daughters to himself. After all, isn’t that what Wonderful, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace came to do.
In the next two weeks, we’ll wrap up this series on humble living. I continue to pray that the words of God and suggestions of Jeremy Taylor have caused you to consider how you might further embrace humility in the context of your life.
May God continue to bless the Parker family as they find their way back to each other.
Hunger for Humility (Week 50): “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" I Corinthians 10:24”
Cathy Messecar welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org