“aintsobad” wittingly or unwittingly describes precisely what we come to when we look deeply into the cultural situtation in our Country. Here is the story …
November 02, 2004
The sky darkened and drove a cold wind before the clouds as I eased my rent car onto the interstate yesterday. The sun lost its battle with the closer elements of weather. A young man, almost unnoticed, hitched his collar higher on the roadside, put out his thumb and walked toward the coming squall.
I do not pick up hitchhikers. I do not suggest that you do so.
I pulled the car over to the shoulder. The young man ran to catch up to me, as hikers most often do when someone stops. He pulled open the door, greeted me shyly and plopped himself down in the front seat. Almost immediately he began his story of the road. An army veteran, twenty-eight, Jeff had ridden the bus down from Oklahoma to Decautur looking for work on an oil rig. He had come with his girl friend who had quickly found work keeping the children of the people who provided a room for her and Jeff.
Jeff spent a year in Iraq with the Army. He still carried himself with the erect posture of a muscled soldier. He talked about the futility of the war as he saw it. He spoke of losing some friends to death in Iraq. Without a trace of bitterness he wondered aloud why there was no work for him when he mustered out at the completion of his hitch.
Jeff had lost more than a year in Iraq. His young wife, grown lonely, fell into the embrace of a male co-worker. She took their son with her to the home of the other man and left Jeff to thrash around disconsolently. He showed me a picture of his five year old son, whom he could not see because he could not find them.
He hit the road walking that day because his sister had fallen gravely, suddenly ill in Oklahoma. Jeff was clearly worried about her. Without money for a bus ticket he was dependent on the kindness of strangers to help him execute what would have been a mere four hour drive for someone with a car.
Jeff represents the new reality of America. Born to the middle class, healthy, eager to work, Jeff is reduced to thumbing his way in the rain to the side of his critically ill sister.
Jeff talked about his love for Sooner football, de rigeur for a young man from that state. He smiled easily, spoke with love for his son and gratitude for the new girl in his life. He demonstrated humility. Repeatedly he apologized for the fact that he could not pay.
Naturally, our talk shifted to God. Jeff had gone through a period of soul-searching in his early twenties that led him to a nascent atheism. The death of his grandmother, his year in battle, the abandonment of his wife and the loss of his son jolted him out of his unbelief. We talked about the divine appointment of our day.
He kept saying, “It is so great how this worked out. I needed a Christian to give me a ride.”
I dropped Jeff by the side of the road when our paths diverged. We prayed for his sister and for his safety on the highway. Our two hours together in the car enriched me as it saddened me. This clean, decent young man cannot find work in the richest nation on earth. A servant of our nation whose life has been on the line for us he represents all that is decent and good in this land.
I pray for Jeff, for his sister, for all his kind and invite others to join me.
Peace to you this day.