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?