Jimmy Tomlin: Remembering a man who cared

Sep. 30, 2013 @ 01:00 AM

The silence is palpable.
One of the biggest hearts in High Point stopped beating earlier this month, and most of us hardly even noticed.
But over at Elm Towers, the southside public housing facility that Dan Addington joyfully called his home, I suspect the silence is quite palpable.
It was there that “Sgt. Dan,” as he came to be known, shared whatever he had — his money, his food, his apartment, his last cigarette, his faith, his heart — with whoever needed it.
The downtrodden, the homeless, the junkies, the hungry, the spiritually lost — they were all Dan’s “grandchillun’,” as he liked to call them. They were his ministry.
Jesus told Dan to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. To welcome the stranger. To care for the sick and the widows and the orphans and the prisoners. And that’s what Dan did, with a giving heart that often neglected his own needs, but never anyone else’s.
Dan died Sept. 9 at age 61. His heart for others no longer beats on this earth, and the silence is palpable.
I met Dan two years ago, when he faced possible eviction from his humble fifth-floor apartment at Elm Towers. I wrote a piece about his plight — how he’d gotten behind on his rent because he’d spent all his money helping others — and readers came to Dan’s rescue, contributing more than $2,000 to help him get caught up.
Even then, I remember how frail Dan seemed, sitting in a wheelchair and laboring to breathe because of his battle against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
I remember watching his gnarled hands — the result of rheumatoid arthritis — as they turned the pages of a well-worn Bible.
I remember his guest, a down-on-his-luck deaf-mute who had needed a place to stay, and Dan had welcomed him in.
I remember his visitor — a man named Tommy Clontz, no doubt one of Dan’s “grandchillun’” — who told me Dan had helped him get his life turned around.
“This man’s got the biggest heart I’ve ever seen,” Tommy told me, nodding toward Dan. “If I needed a ride somewhere, even when he didn’t have gas money, he would take me. He helps so many people that way. He’s a blessing is what he is.”
When Dan received some $40,000 in Social Security back pay, he gave it all away — most of it to his “grandchillun’” — within three months.
“They needed it more than I did,” he said.
That’s who Dan was.
Last week, when I learned of Dan’s passing, I couldn’t help but think about all the people he’d gone out of his way to help — many of them, quite honestly, people that society likes to sweep under the rug.
And I couldn’t help but think about what the rest of us have done — what I’ve done — to help them.
Sad to say, the silence is palpable.
jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579