Decades ago, in the dark times before the internet was a readily available thing and everyone had a supercomputer in their pocket, reconnecting with someone you cared about was kind of impossible. It involved correspondence jiu jitsu, tracking down people via phone books and letters to old addresses.
But today, finding a long-lost friend or family member can be as simple as sending off a Facebook friend request. Here are three real-life stories of people who finally reconnected after years apart. Heads up: you might want to pull out the tissues for this one.
1. San Diego Woman Gives Her Mom The Ultimate Gift
Rhonda was just a teenager when she realized the man who helped raise her was not her biological father. When her mother died before she could reveal his identity, Rhonda was left without any leads—until her daughter, Chelsea, did some internet sleuthing.
Chelsea started by ordering a copy of her grandma’s marriage certificate, which listed Rhonda’s father’s name. “I wanted to see if he had any additional family,” Chelsea told Instant Checkmate. “Maybe my mom had siblings.” She used a public records search service to track down his son and daughter. After six decades apart, Rhonda communicated with her father’s family via Facebook—and the rest, as they say, is history.
“They have a huge extended family,” Chelsea said. “There’s a ton of them.” Unfortunately, Rhonda’s father passed away years ago—but thanks to some careful searching, Rhonda is able to finally learn about the person her father was through her newly extended family.
2. Woman Finally Reconnects With Father After Adoption
When Leah Dalton was born in South Korea, her biological parents faced a tough decision. They wanted their daughter to have a better life—so, when Dalton was 18 months old, she was adopted by a family in Breckenridge, Minnesota.
Decades passed. Dalton always felt a desire to connect with her biological family, but she “never really did anything about it,” she told Valley News Live. However, Dalton recently learned that her father, Jong Sung Kwon, was looking for her. Two years ago, he wrote a letter to the Minnesota group that handled Dalton’s adoption.
“I felt very emotional because I thought this poor man has been waiting for two years to hear from me, and I thought that maybe he doesn’t think I care,” Dalton said.
She tracked him down on Facebook—and one friend request later, they were overcoming their language barrier with the help of charades and translation apps on their cell phones.
Dalton embraced her father for the first time in 28 years at Hector International Airport in Fargo, North Dakota. Kwon told Valley News Live he wanted to find Dalton to make sure she was happy and healthy. To that end, Dalton plans to show her biological family her world in the States, and later, she plans to visit South Korea.
“I think the power of the internet is amazing,” Dalton said. “I feel, for me, that was a huge part of it.”
3. San Francisco Organization Helps Homeless Find Loved Ones
San Francisco is known for a few key things—it’s the home of tech giants like Facebook, Apple, and Google, and it’s the site of one of the highest costs of living in the nation. San Francisco also has a highly visible population of unsheltered homeless people, with 511 people on the streets per 100,000 residents.
One organization wants to change the conversation around the city’s homeless population. Started in 2014, Miracle Messages makes it possible for homeless people to record two-minute video messages to their loved ones. The videos are then circulated on social media with the goal of reaching the person’s family.
In October 2016, NPR reported on the story of Dave Adams, a man who had lived on the streets of San Francisco for the past 20 years. He couldn’t figure out how to contact his family—until a Miracle Messages volunteer recorded Adams’ video message. He connected with his half sister, Dorothy, who started crying when he called her for the first time.
Adams went to work and live at his sister’s farm in Tennessee, and his story remains one of Miracle Message’s success stories. CEO Kevin Adler said, “Doing something very simple with what we call a video postcard is a very helpful first step for basically saying who you love, who you want to reconnect with, whatever kind of message you want to leave. And we’ll do our best to deliver it.”
By 2021, Miracle Messages wants to reunite 1 million people—a number that equals 1% of the world’s homeless population.
It’s a big goal—but in today’s connected world, anything is possible.