Granted, I know it was the age of innocence, and I grew up in a small town; the kind of town where locking your doors when you ran an errand, or even went to bed was unheard of. Cars were never locked. Yet, as I think of it now, it’s hard to imagine that at 10-12 years of age I hitchhiked! That’s right, I said hitchhiked! Not once, but regularly, and with my parents full blessing and knowledge. It seems unthinkable today, with abductions, sexual abuse, and human trafficking. It’s hard to imagine any parent, in any town, no matter how small, would find this acceptable today.
When I was young, our golf course and swimming hole, “Sandy Hollow”, was about three miles out of town. I would walk the two blocks to the intersection, stick out my thumb, and very quickly have a ride. I spent the day golfing and swimming. In the evening, I walked up the hill to the intersection, and thumbed my way home.
Even though my parents, allowed this, once we left Sioux Center, Dad would never pick up a hitchhiker. There was one exception. We had been vacationing out west, and were on our way home. I think it was over forty years ago so the details may be a bit foggy. I believe I was about twelve, or thirteen years old. We were in Wyoming as I recall, when we stopped for gas and food at an interstate truck stop. As we pulled away to resume our journey, a torrential rain began. We made our way down the onramp, and there was a long haired young man of about twenty years old. He had his thumb out with one hand while trying to cover his head from the down pour with his other.
Dad, must have had a burst of empathy, because he shocked me when he pulled to the side of the rode, and waived the young man over. The bigger shock was when the young man got in, and said he was heading home to Orange City, Iowa. Orange City is only a few miles from Sioux Center, our home. What are the odds? That night Dad paid for his dinner, and let him stay with us in the hotel. The next morning he got up, and travelled with us all day. Dad paid for his meals, and drove him to his parent’s house in Orange City, before backtracking to our house in Sioux Center.
It turned out the young man had grown up in a Christian home. If memory serves me right his father was actually a pastor or on the faculty at Northwestern College, a Reformed Church affiliated institution. He had become involved in a cult; some of you recall from the early 70’s, they were labeled “Moonies”, after the founder. He had worked for two years in a socialistic environment with the promise that the church would find a marriage match for him. He spoke very favorably about his experience, but he was clearly searching for answers, and was headed home to reconcile with his family. I think he, or his family may have stayed in touch with Mom and Dad for a while. I hope God called him to do amazing things, and he was restored to both his earthly and heavenly father’s.
A few people got “picked up” in the Bible too. In Mark 2, 4 men picked up their friend, cut a hole through the roof, and lowered him into the home to be healed by Jesus. In Luke 10, “the Good Samaritan” picked up the injured man by the roadside, loaded him on his donkey, and saw that he was cared for in a nearby inn.
At the pool of Bethesda in John 5, the lame man sure could have used a friend to lift him into the healing waters of the pool when it stirred.
Have you picked anyone up lately? Have you given some encouragement to someone who’s down? Brought a meal to someone who’s recovering? Lent a helping hand, or a listening ear to someone who could sure use one? How about that guy on the sidewalk that asked for $5? Did you look the other way or open up your wallet?
No, I don’t recommend picking up hitchhikers, even though I’m experienced. More and more however, I’m trying to get better at picking people up. How about you? Is there someone you know who could really use a lift?