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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Hitchhikers

I never pick up hitchhikers. It's too dangerous, I always have my kids with me, and I can never seem to find a place to pull over, even if I wanted to. And sometimes, there is a part of me that wants to. My dad was always telling stories of how he'd stop to help someone on the way home from work. One time that stands out is when he stopped to help a woman he didn't know, but when they got to talking, he realized it was my 5th grade  best friend Christine's mom. I also remember my mom once stopping to help a stranded family on the side of the road. They told us that they had been praying that someone would help them, and then along came my mom in the 12 passenger Ford Club Wagon van, an answer to prayer.

When I saw a family walking down Highway 60 the other day, I felt for them. What mom wants her 6 year old walking on the side of the highway-  a few miles from any place they could get help? So I picked them up. They had run out of gas;  the gas gauge was broken.  The three of them- the dad, the mom and their son who had just graduated kindergarten that day- were so grateful. I was feeling pretty good. I got our gas can from home, already filled with gas. Because of the median on the 60, I couldn't drive them back to their car without going an additional 40 minute round trip, so I gave them the gas can and the husband said he would walk to the car. All I asked was that they return the gas can for me when they were done.

"Let me give you directions so you remember how to get back to my house," I said.
"That's okay," they told me, "We remember."
Well, I'm just naive enough to think they actually did remember and would be coming back shortly. Our house is close to the gas station; it was hardly out of their way. As time went by, I even went out and looked on the porch- maybe they left it, but didn't knock. But it was never there.

It may come as no surprise to you, but they never did return that gas can.

I am TRYING to forgive them. I keep remembering that part in Les Miserables where the thief steals the candlestick, and when he gets caught, the man who he stole from doesn't turn him in, but says, "you forgot this one," and gives him the other. And it's not like this was something precious to me, it was just a ($15) gas can filled with $4 a gallon gas.
Still. I went out of my way, trusted strangers in my car, drove back and forth to near where their car was, and didn't even ask for them to refill the gas can. And they couldn't drive an extra two minutes from the gas station to my house?

I have asked myself a lot of times since it happened: if I could go back and do it over, would I help them? I still don't know the answer. Would you?


  1. i am personally so happy you are blogging again. i loved your food blog and know that i will like this one too. that was a pretty good hitchhiker story and sort of funny you happened to post that recently. Yesterday on my way home from work i saw a guy walking from his car with a flat (in 90 degree weather i think) toward an exit atleast a mile off that (he was about to find out)had nothing for him. no gas stations, no houses even. i felt SO bad for him. I said a little prayer that he would get some gut instinct to turn and walk the mile or so in the opposit direction which has at least two gas stations, fast food and lots of people to help him :( i wouldn't of pulled over to offer a ride, i was alone but picking up a stranger-guy-is not in my 5'1" favor. BUT now that i think about it, i should of pulled over and called someone for him with my unlimited minutes or atleast give him the tip to walk back the other way. I think what you did was great and yes you should do it again-not everyone out there would be like that family and not turn in the gas can-imagine if you were in there shoes, i know for a fact you would of retunred it...and your neighborhood is CONFUSING! they might of tried?

  2. You're nice to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they got lost... but thinking back on it, they weren't concerned about getting directions... About your story, I think sometimes the spirit tells us things so that we can use them and do more NEXT time. :)

  3. Chanelle, you did the right thing. I too often think of Jean Valjean and the Bishop that helped him. You did YOUR part...Jean went on to help many other people.

  4. I think that you did the right thing. You did your best to help them. I know it might have been annoying that they did not bring back the can, but I feel like they still might. Maybe they had to get somewhere and didn't think it had to be returned right away. Or maybe they did try and got lost like Jessica suggested. You will know someday. They might feel real bad about it, hoping you will forgive them. Love you, Mom

  5. Mickie, I knew one of them wasw named Jean Valjean, but couldn't remember which one- thanks for clearing that up.
    Mom, I'll let you know if they ever show up at my door:)

  6. Interesting things like this never happen to me! It does make me think though about thank you cards for wedding gifts I received. I probably neglected to thank 15 or so people and I have thought about that for nearly 8 years now. Thinking that when those people think of me, they probably immediately think of what a brat I am that I never took the time to thank them for their generosity. Sometimes I feel like writing to them and saying thanks even if it is SO ridiculously late, but then I am too embarrassed to do it. Maybe your gas can folks are the same way.

  7. Seems to me that holding a grudge in this case only hurts you. You might forgive yourself for picking up people who needed help and it not going how you wanted it to. ;)
    Deciding to forgive or not forgive is useful if you will see that person again and should know to avoid them or not. If you will never see them again, withholding forgivness just exhausts you.
    Deciding on the whole whether or not to trust people requires a lot more testing. You tested this time and got a little singed. Now you can use that info to decide whether to test more or not.