Periodically, to break up the long hours spent at my desk, I’ll skim through news articles, catch up on local and world events, or flip through a compilation of photos capturing some of life’s most heartfelt moments. At times, I find myself deeply immersed in the sentiments behind a particular article, tweet, or photo. I have no shame in admitting I’ve spewed profanities at my monitor and wiped coffee giggle dribbles off the front of my shirt. My desk has caught tears more times than I care to admit. However, never in a million years did I think a photo of a man eating a hamburger would send me reaching for a tissue. It happened. I have Sad Papaw to blame.
On March 16th, a young lady named Kelsey tweeted a photo of her “Papaw” eating a hamburger at the table. In Kelsey’s tweet, she stated, “Dinner with Papaw tonight. He made 12 burgers for all 6 grandkids and I’m the only one who showed up. Love him.” Twitter lit up with replies and the post made its rounds on Facebook. It went viral. According to Fox News, “By Friday morning, the original picture had been retweeted over 130,000 times and liked by over 200,000 users.” It didn’t take long for Sad Papaw, whose real name is Kenneth Harmon, to became the internet’s new favorite grandpa.
People had a lot to say about this incident. A substantial amount of comments were directed at the 5 grandkids that didn’t show up. One of the grandkids, Brock, visited Papaw the following day to enjoy a hamburger. He posted a picture accompanied with a statement reassuring everyone that his grandpa had forgiven him for his absence the previous evening. However, people weren’t falling for it and the response was harsh.
Just 2 days after the photo was posted, one of Harmon’s grandsons made a public announcement. Sad Papaw was going to have a cookout on March 26th and it was open to any and all. With a little marketing ingenuity, crowdsourcing, and a lot of work, they pulled it off. There was a small charge of $2 for a burger and “I ate a burger with Sad Papaw” T-Shirts available for $16.
Hundreds of people showed up at the location in Oklahoma to enjoy a cookout with Sad Papaw. Guests traveled from all over including California, Virginia and New York. Kenneth Harmon was overwhelmed by the response and turnout. The millions who kept up with this story, myself included, were left with those warm fuzzy feelings.
Like so many other fervent stories in the past that were later proven to be a hoax, I’m holding out this isn’t one of them. I’d like to believe social media wrapped their arms around a genuine, innocent tweet that transpired into something remarkable and, in its entirety, gave Sad Papaw a day he’ll never forget. For the rest of us, I think there’s a lesson to be learned. Busy is just an excuse. Put the smartphones and iPads down. Let voicemail pick up. The emails can wait. Show up. Be present. And, if you’re lucky enough to have a grandpa who will cook you dinner, you very well better be at the table on time.