It seems every few years I get the opportunity to supply a ride; not for my kids, friends, or those who’ve imbibed too much. No, I have the chance to help a hitchhiker move a little further down the road toward destinations unknown. Though I do not always provide this transportation, on occasion I show grace to these wayfaring strangers. And, I often get a glimpse of a unique and interesting worldview for my troubles.

Sometime in 2017, I came upon a gentleman trudging westward on US36 beyond the Hanover corner. Cruising past en route to visit family in western Washington County, I debated momentarily the wisdom of picking up this person unknown to me. Could he be a danger? All the same, I spun around and back to his location to see if he wanted a lift. He quietly, cooley accepted my offer.

He was a large individual, pushing three hundred pounds, at least six and a half feet tall. He wore a black t-shirt and fatigue pants with Timberlands. I realized that many people would pass him by, seeing his clothing and build as indications of a threatening individual. I too may have done the same had my wife or children been in the car with me.

Though I do not recall his name, I remember a bit of his story. He was trekking to Colorado from Georgia to meet a distant cousin. Several weeks before our encounter he had set out without specific arrangements or plans. He relied entirely on his feet and the outreaching kindness of strangers to transport him. He dared not stick out his thumb or appear desperate for assistance lest he be seen as needy.

The gentleman told me a number if things during our less than twenty-minute conversation. He spoke of his strongly held beliefs about how society was keeping him from reaching his goals, and burdening him unnecessarily. It soon became clear that this was a unique individual to be sure. I offered to take him as far as he needed, but a short mutual consideration brought us both to the conclusion that Washington was the drop-off point most likely to result in him finding a long-term ride further west.

Upon his exit from the car, I reflected on what future roads might mean for him. How would he get across the desolate and depopulated expanses of western Kansas? Would the innate kindness of Kansans supply and sustain his needs? I wondered if he would make it to Colorado. I wondered if he would stop there.

A month or so later, I recounted the entire experience to my brother that lives in Belleville. He sat quietly through my tale, only to immediately after profer a perfect description of the hitchhiker. It turns out, he too had carried this wayward stranger. He too was somehow drawn to assist this man.

What the chances are of my brother and I schlepping the same individual I cannot say. What this coincidence means about our personalities or the way we were raised I can only speculate on. However, I believe now more than ever in the power of grace amongst strangers. We all are better, or more giving, and BETTER for showing grace to another.

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