I really did it. I picked up a hitchhiker for the first time the other day, with a van full of kids no less. This was back in January, when we were living in North Dakota.
Backup a Bit
It was a bitterly cold Thursday afternoon, and the children and I were driving into town to attend the funeral of a friend. It was one of the coldest days of the season with the wind whipping the snow around and dropping the temperature to about -30 degrees Fahrenheit. We were still a few miles from town when I came up over a hill and spotted a man walking alongside the road. His whole body was bent over, as he was trudging against the fierce wind.
Immediately my heart leapt, and I knew I had to offer him a ride; he’d die otherwise. So, I yelled back to the kids that I was going to offer this man a ride, and that I’d explain my actions later.
I slowed down, breathed a prayer of protection to my guardian angel, and rolled down the window and shouted, “Hey! You want a ride?”
A young face turned to me and halfheartedly waved. He hadn’t heard me because of the wind.
I boldly tried again, “Get in!”
Then he understood and nodded. He ran over and pointed to the back of the van, wondering if he ought to ride in the back?
I shook my head. “No, sit up here, by me.” I was going to keep my eye on this guy, after all.
He opened the door and quickly jumped in and shuddered. Again, it was a deadly cold day. As I picked up speed, he quietly said, “Thank you. It’s a lot longer walk into town than I remembered.”
Dear Reader, let me tell you now, he reeked of alcohol, and my heart ached for him. Why was he out walking on such a savagely cold afternoon? I wanted to ask him this, but didn’t. Instead, I told him I was driving to the Cathedral and that I’d drop him off anywhere he wanted along the way. And again, all he said was, “Thank you.”
As I neared town, he mentioned that he’d get out at the Interstate exit. During this time, I was asking for the guidance of Jesus. Is there anything, dear Jesus, that you would have me say to this young man?
“I am Catholic,” I blurted out, as I pulled over at the exit. “Please, you must take this holy card of Jesus. He loves you so. And here is His Mother, Mary. She loves you too.”
There was a pause as he reached for the holy card of Jesus and the Miraculous Medal of Mary. He looked at them.
I continued, “She cares about you, you know. He does too.”
He looked at me and said, “Thank you.” Then he opened the door and was gone into the vicious wind.
I turned onto the Interstate and glanced at the silent children in the rearview mirror and paused. How do I explain myself? This was certainly something I had never done before, nor would I recommend it.
I began, “Don’t you ever, ever do that–pick up strangers, I mean.” Then I sighed and continued, “Well, unless the Holy Spirit or your Guardian Angel tells you to do so. Then you listen and do as your told.”
Pause. “That’s why I picked that man up. I was told to. But that almost never happens.”
More silence. “We must pray for this young man, children.”
And so we did. Perhaps you could offer a small prayer for him too, Dear Readers?