True Story: I picked up a hitchhiker on the way to Tennessee with five kids in the van. Now let me tell you why…
I was working on a book titled Cool Kids of Jerusalem, a middle grade novel showing the last summer adventures of five Jewish boys. The story was set in the days of Jesus’ Earthly ministry.
My problem? Around 70 AD, Josephus tells us the Romans besieged the city and cut down all the trees within miles of Jerusalem. Therefore, in 30 AD Jerusalem had a forest. Didn’t it? I couldn’t picture the scenery. Although I researched the customs and traditions of that day, I was baffled. What occupations did the boy’s parents hold? The clothing they wore? Shoes on their feet? These questions and more prevented me from completing the story.
So, I prayed. I asked God to somehow show me what I needed to know.
Which brings us to the hitchhiker:
On my way to visit my parents, we passed an old man holding a large duffle bag under an overpass. My silent conversation with God went something like this…
Me: I must be hearing things.
Me: I can’t do that. I’m a woman alone with five kids in a van.
Me: Too late. We already passed him besides he was probably a serial killer.
God: Turn around and Offer him a ride.
God: Go back. Offer him a ride.
Me: No! He’s a hitchhiker.
God: Take the next exit, Go back and offer him a ride. He’s on his way to visit his brother on the north side of Montgomery.
Me: Fine but if he kills us, it’s your fault.
My younger passengers grumble and complain because I’m going south instead of North. When I tell them what we’re doing, they beg and pled to change my mind. Yes they think I’m crazy, but I’m the adult, right? Adam and Brandon try to reason with me while Ashlyn is near tears. Nick’s busy playing a video a game and could care less. In my mind, I whisper to God, “See I told you this was crazy.”
I veer onto the shoulder and crack the window a wee bit to ask the stranger where he’s going. His answer?
Yep, you guessed it. North of Montgomery to visit his brother.
God whispers in my ear, “See, I told you.”
The most amazing thing happened as I offered him a ride, my young passengers quit complaining.
When we had trouble fitting his large bag in the crowded van, he said he’d wait for another offer. But by this time I was determined. We squeezed his duffle on the back floorboard and he got in the front.
There was something ethereal about this stranger and he was clean. I mean really clean. You’d think a bum would smell to high heavens but he didn’t. Though he was clearly old, he had no wrinkles on his face. None. And he was Jewish. Exactly the man I needed to talk to. I asked him a million questions. With his silver hair and full beard shining, he told me his name was Mike and with a twinkle in his crystal blue eyes he teased about running for governor of Minnesota. (Or was it Missouri. I can’t remember. Anyway…) For over two hours he told us stories of his Jewish heritage and other interesting things about the history of Israel.
When we dropped him off north of Montgomery, at a small church I didn’t want to leave.
I’ve often wondered about this stranger and I will never regret giving him a ride. I can’t explain how it felt to be in his presence but it was a humbling experience.
That was the most idiotic thing I have ever done, and it was the most rewarding. So, why did I share?
When my parents and the other responsible adults found out what happened they were livid. My mom didn’t understand. My daddy lectured me on placing his grandchildren in danger. My sister went berserk. Dear brother-in-law forbade his children to ride in a vehicle with me, forever. He also wanted to file child endangerment charges but thank God, I talked him out of that.
Did their outrage lessen the experience I had by obeying God? Not one bit. When my life gets frazzled, I often recall a piece of wisdom from the stranger.
Today, I’m reminding myself that, though people think I’m crazy and most don’t agree or understand, obeying the voice of God comes with huge incomprehensible benefits.
Don’t ever, EVER pick up a hitchhiker. It’s dangerous and crazy. But….