Archive for July, 2014

Total Strangers

total strangers
I’d love to tell you all that my ride was easy since leaving Hawthorne, Nevada, but that would be a lie. The temperatures feel like 150 degrees. My friends and I have been stopping a lot to hydrate and just trying to keep from getting heat stroke.

At one point, none of us was okay to ride on, but we were lucky enough to find a nice farmer who allowed us to stay on his property. His wife fried up a bunch of chicken and served it with mashed potatoes, gravy, and fresh out-of-the-garden green beans. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. They even allowed us to use their bathroom to shower. It amazes me that total strangers could be that hospitable. I know I’m not that way. I was raised to be cautious of strangers, almost to the point of ignoring strangers. And growing up in the city, that was sound advice coming from my parents, but I doubt it’s truly the way our Lord wants us to live our lives.

I’m not saying “throw caution to the wind”, but I do think we’ve all become too self-absorbed in our own lives to even notice the needs of others. Luckily, this bike trip was teaching me to be more open to strangers. Not just those who could help me, but also those I could help.

The next day, after Bart tries to pay the farmer and his wife for their hospitality, we head back out on the road. The weather is on our side with overcast skies and cooler temperatures. We make our way to Tonopah, Nevada. We find the Tonopah Station RV Park, a small rv park that looks more like an extension to the parking lot of the casino it’s attached to, and get checked in for the evening.

That evening, a couple of the young local kids are having fun tearing through the parking lot in their souped-up cars. Carol insists Mac call the cops. He doesn’t. Instead, he, Pete, and Bart walk down to them and start talking “shop.” One can see there is an instant connection with the young men. The young men’s arms are waving as they describe all the things they had done to their cars. Hoods are popped open as each car owner points out how great their engines are. Mac, Pete, and Bart absorb it all, and then invite them to have dinner with us.

Carol and Martha are about to protest when Faith quietly says, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

Carol and Martha are not pleased with their friend’s astute observation, but they accept it. We all head into the rig to make up the salads and other side dishes we’d be sharing with our dinner guests. And, as it so happens, these boys, or should I say young men, were practicing for a race they’d be in in a few weeks. The owner of the RV park knew the boys, and had agreed they could practice in his lot. My only thought about all of this was it would have been nice if the owner had let us know about this when we checked in. That way, we wouldn’t have assumed they were simply being an annoyance to weary travelers.

As the evening wears on, I am surprised at the stories these two young men have. One of them, I think he said his name was Derek, is 24 and is taking a break from college before entering med school. To look at him, you would never guess he had the desire to heal people. And to watch him drive that car, one would think he was on a death mission. But Derek was passionate about healing people. We shared our story about the man who died in Hawthorne, Nevada. This story had Derek’s undivided attention. I could tell he was going to make a great doctor with a great bedside manner. The other lad, Mike, (I remember his name because it’s the same as my nephew’s), just turned 23. His father had been killed in Viet Nam. Mike is the youngest of six kids.

He laughs and says, “Yeah, I was sort of an oops, but my mom is sure glad she had me since I’m the only one who hung around here. She depends on me a lot.”

I silently think, “Yeah, I know how that feels.”

My mind wanders off to the moment in my life when my mother had told me I was her oops. I’m not the youngest, but I was unexpected. Yet I was the one who was there for her and Dad for many years. I got some help caring for them from siblings, but there were many times that dealing with their elder years was left totally up to me. I wonder if Mike realizes what he faces in the future since his mother is a year older than me. She’s not exactly a senior yet, but she’s knocking on that door. Will their relationship remain solid or will they become strangers to each other as age pulls seniors into a sometimes silent world?

After dinner, our two young friends thanked us for our hospitality and went on their way. All of us were happy we had not remained total strangers with these two fine young men.

And as I lie in bed that night thinking about Derek and Mike, I thought, “I really have to be better about putting myself out there like Bart, Mac, and Pete did. Had they not gone over to talk friendly with Derek and Mike, we would have never met them. In fact, we probably would have spent the night worrying that they were just a couple of punks who were out to rob us blind.”

And in my real life, I don’t often have to go over to the Marian House Soup Kitchen while their guests are waiting in line, but when I do, I try to treat those I come in contact with, with the respect they deserve. Some are so introverted that you couldn’t get them to look at you if you tried, but others will smile and say “hi.” I will always acknowledge them and give them a smile back. I don’t always succeed at not assuming a total stranger could be dangerous. There are still times I find myself pulling my purse in closer to me, crossing a street to avoid a possible confrontation, or simply being like some of those introverted soup kitchen guests. But I am working at not being this way because I don’t want to meet my Maker some day and have Him say, “Betsy, do you remember the time when I was down and out and you ignored me?”

So as we go through life, try not to keep everyone we come in contact with a total stranger. Some of those strangers may play a big role in your life, an unexpected life-changing role. God bless and let’s keep going the distance.

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