Humility and the Hitchhiker
By Shayne Sprague
So I never pick up hitch-hikers as a rule. I don't know what moved me to do so today. I was heading from North Platte to Brady and he was just outside of North Platte. He jumped in and said "thanks for stopping". I said no problem, I'm going to Brady about 23 miles up the road, and I’ll take you that far.
As we were conversing, I noticed he reeked of booze. I also noticed his wrinkled, sun darkened face, his shoddy hair and clothes, unshaven face, and only the clothes on his back.
But what I noticed most was his piercing, large blue eyes. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and I believe it, if you look closely, you can pretty much tell the kind of soul a person has through their eyes. His eyes were almost indescribable. They were so mesmerizing, not an ounce of hate in them. Looking at his very rough exterior, I could tell he'd been down a very hard road. Somehow, despite the road he had been down, there was no hate in his eyes...only love.
I asked him if he wanted a smoke, and he said yes, so I gave him one, then I let him keep the whole pack, for which he seemed genuinely grateful for. I started asking him where he was from, where he was headed, does he have family, etc. He proceeded to tell me he had been on the road for 6 days, coming from Arizona where he had recently had a heart attack and heart surgery. He was pretty much healed up but couldn't find work. He had his bed roll and backpack stolen in Colorado. He was heading back to his birthplace of Kansas City, Mo., which is where I was born as well. He said he lost his wife to a brain tumor 10 years ago, and she is buried in Norman, Oklahoma. He said he never had kids because his wife couldn't have any. He had no family aside from cousins, whom he'd lost, touch with over the years. We talked the rest of the way about politics, and other superficial stuff, all the while, my gut was telling me there was something about this guy that I couldn't put my finger on, but it was something special.
The whole time I was kind of reflecting on some of my own hard times and struggles, some of which were self induced. I mean, here is a homeless man that just had heart surgery, but was smoking and drinking. I too, have had my battles with alcohol and drugs, so I understand. I found myself thinking "but for the Grace of God, there go I." And that’s the truth. I'm lucky to have what I have after what I've been through, let alone lucky to be alive.
So we get to Brady and I say "well, this is the end of my line." He says, "I really appreciate the ride and the cigarettes." To which I replied, “no problem, when we stop, I'm going to give you some money too." (A decision I had subconsciously made miles back down the road.) He said thank you, I can get a cup of coffee or something.
I would like to clarify at this point, my whole reason for telling this story. It's not that I want a pat on the back...could care a less about that. It's not that I felt sorry for the guy, although I definitely empathized with him. I have over the years, on many occasions given food and/or money to homeless people. Again, no pat on back wanted or needed. On many of those occasions, it was quite obvious that said homeless person was going to drink the money right up. The Bible says something to the effect of "give with your right hand, and don't tell your left hand." To me, that means don't gloat. It means do the right things for the right reasons without expecting anything in return. That is something my parents deserve credit for.
Lately, as I look around at the world, I find it a very ugly place. As I've stated, I've been through some pretty hard times in my life. There were many kind people that helped me along the way. There were also many that turned away. I've always felt that even when I had nothing tangible to offer that a kind word, a gesture, or a smile was the least I could do, and to try to refrain from doing any harm.
Some of you may be thinking, or like me, have thought, I just got duped by that dude. One time at a gas station in Colorado, a guy walked up to me and asked me for some cash for gas so he could get back home. His van was at the gas pumps. I said sorry dude, I'm all tapped out. I sat in my car feeling guilty and walked over, gave him $20 bucks, and returned to my car. As I watched him, he jumped in his van without getting gas and hit the interstate! Duped indeed! But that's cool. The guy I picked up today asked for nothing, other than sticking his thumb out for a ride. I never felt duped at any point.
The reason for sharing this story is because of the look in his eyes when we parted ways. As I mentioned, I told him I was going to give him some money. I was thinking maybe $20 bucks. When I reached in my wallet, something compelled me to pull out a $50 dollar bill. I handed him the 50, and he looked at me with those piercing blue eyes surrounded by that weathered face with a look of astonishment that I can't describe, but I found myself fighting back tears. He was obviously both surprised and genuinely grateful. He struggled to say thank you, and he shook my hand. I said you’re welcome brother, best of luck to you. He got out of the vehicle and before he shut the door he looked at me with those eyes again, as if he was looking into MY soul, and said, " thanks again, you really don't know what this means to me." I said, “you have no idea what it means to me!"
As I drove off I was in tears because I was so touched. You see, I felt as though I just handed myself $50. I always pray that I can be of use to my fellow man, and I believe that God puts people in our lives for a reason. The Bible also says give and you shall receive. What I received today was a small miracle from a homeless man with blue eyes that reminded me there is still some good in this world, that I have a lot to be grateful for. Honestly, I don't think the money or the cigarettes meant nearly as much to him as receiving a smile, and a display of genuine kindness in what can be such a cold, cruel world. As for the $50 bucks, and can I afford it? Who cares? For my $50, I too, received a smile, and a genuine display of kindness that was worth every penny. I am truly touched, I almost feel like I was looking into the eyes of my higher power. In a sense, I was, because he is out there, all I have to do is look.