This past week I had an appointment in town. The time change had made my internal clock wonky, and I was running late. Not one to waste good coffee, I slurped down a half a cup and “burned the hair …
This past week I had an appointment in town. The time change had made my internal clock wonky, and I was running late. Not one to waste good coffee, I slurped down a half a cup and “burned the hair off my tongue” in the process.
As I grabbed my computer bag to head out the door, it started raining. It was an old cold rain, as my grandmother used to say. Reaching back inside the door, I pulled my hat from the coatrack and headed to the truck. This was not a good day to be on the road.
Crossing the river, I wound my way through Sipsey. I had to flip my wipers on high. They slapped sheets of water off the windshield. On the edge of the town limits, I noticed a man walking in the direction I was heading. With the collar of his jacket hunched up around his ears, I could tell he was drenched to the bone. He turned toward me as I approached and stuck out his thumb. I’m guessing he’d done that a half-dozen times without anyone slowing to have a look.
Usually, the passenger seat of my truck is filled with stuff I have to haul around for my job, but today all I had was my computer bag. My tires skidded a little when I touched the breaks.
Pulling to the edge of the road, I leaned over and unlocked my door to let him in. “I’m soaked," he warned, but I told him to jump in. He shivered while buckling up, so I bumped the heater up a notch.
“Where are you headed?” I asked. It turns out, his stop was on my way. He’d resigned himself to the fact that he’d have to walk all the way to Jasper. Few people are willing to pick up hitchhikers, especially in the rain.
I made small talk. He was slow to open up, and that was OK with me, but I did learn that he was a veteran and homeless. He was looking for work so that he could get him a place of his own. He ticked off a few of his skills, but he would fall into the category of an unskilled laborer.
I told him that my nephew sometimes needed help in his plumbing business, but when I asked if he had a cell phone, he said that he didn’t. I nodded my head in understanding.
When we got to the place he was heading, he told me to let him out on the side of the road, and he’d walk the rest of the way. He didn’t want to put me out any further. The rain was still pounding, so I drove him as close as I could get to the door of his building without driving up the stairs. He thanked me for the ride and slid out. I was glad to help a fellow veteran.
I’ve thought about the man since that day. I wondered what story he would have told had he felt comfortable enough to share it. It’s easy to think of the homeless in big cities where there are some shelters and other resources, but I’m not sure where homeless people turn here.
I’ve always believed that we live in a land of opportunity and that a better life is within everyone’s reach. But I’ve come to understand that’s not always the case. People fall through the cracks. Some are where they are because of the decisions they’ve made, but others get smacked down by life and are too weary to get up.
I wish there were some way I could have helped my hitchhiker find a job so that he could get a small place with a warm bed and a bathroom. But for my guy, all I could offer was to give him a ride and get him out of the rain for a while.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, "Life Goes On," is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.