Call Me Catholic

I Picked Up a Hitchhiker

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?

2 thoughts on “I Picked Up a Hitchhiker”

  1. That was very courageous of you! You obeyed the Holy Spirit and your guardian angel, but I’m sure it was scary. We’ve picked up people off and on throughout the years and only if both Eric and I were in the car. There was this same man, a Native American, that we kept crossing paths with. Holy Elk Face was his name. Another Native American we crossed paths with was named simply, Elton. One time we found him hanging around the gathering space after mass. He was drunk. Father Chad warned him to stop swearing or he was going to call the cops. We offered him a ride in our car and bought him some food. He stayed in the front seat, while the kids and I stayed in the back. He spent three hours in our van, sobering up. All the while he swore and condemned the white man for all the evil he’s done. He said we didn’t know what it was like to have everybody look at you in disgust. The more sober he became, the less he swore. Finally, we dropped him off at the library and as he was getting out, a full bottle of Vodka fell out of his coat and rolled under a parked car nearby. He got out and began climbing under the car to get it. He asked Eric to help him, but Eric said, “You’re on your own this time Elton.”

    Another time, we went to a late late movie and were returning home around 2:30 am. This was out to Lincoln from Bismarck. We saw a teenage boy walking in the cold November just in shorts and a t-shirt. His girlfriend had just broken up with him. We drove him home that night and told him to think about the future and that this would pass and wouldn’t seem as bad down the road. It’s interesting who God puts in your path. I always wish I knew what became of some of these people. I suppose when we die we’ll all find out.


    1. You are right…it is interesting and providential–the people God puts in your path. I chose to write about it because I had just listened to a nun tell a remarkable story about hiking to some scenic overlook, in full habit. As she was enjoying the incredible heights, a man in full military uniform came up behind her. She turned around and asked him, “What are you doing up here?” He looked at her a moment and said, “I came here to kill myself.” She convinced him not to.

      One never knows what one kind word or action might do. So many people are starved for Love Himself.

      Liked by 1 person

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