Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Hiker

First of all, I want to thank all of the wonderful people who have given me work over the last week or so. Because of you guys, I'm going to be able to pay my rent. Since I now also have a job, you all also have the satisfaction of knowing that you really did make it possible for me to get through a transitory period of difficulty. And that makes you guys pretty darn awesome.

That being said, I kind of want to tell something that happened today that has really changed my perspective.

Today, I was driving to Brownwood to visit my aunt. I'm carrying some things to the trailer house, and will stick around to watch her choir sing at the Easter service tomorrow morning. The drive from the city to Brownwood is extremely long. Long enough that if you forget to get gas, you may actually run out before you reach a gas station. Right in the middle of all this, I passed a woman walking by the side of the road. Normally, I don't stop for people by the side of the road. I don't really feel that it's safe for me to do so, and in general, I figure the worst that can happen is that they have to walk wherever they're going. In this case, however, I had a bad feeling about it for some reason. I didn't think there was anything within on day's walking distance, and it was easily 93 degrees out. To make things worse, there was a thunderstorm rolling in, and it was extremely humid.

So I stopped and offered her a ride. This woman was more tan than any woman I've ever seen, with a sunburn across her nose. Her hair was bleached blonde by the sun, and the pants she was wearing had holes worn through in places. She didn't even have any kind of water with her.

She seemed reluctant to talk, but her story came out in short answers to the occasional tentative question. She had come from Miami, Florida, walking and hitchhiking when she could get a ride. She claimed to be on her way to New Mexico. I don't think she had a penny to her name, and when I asked her where she planned to sleep tonight, she told me that she'd been sleeping by the side of the road.

Maybe it was unwise, but I ended up feeding her dinner and offering to let her sleep in the empty trailer house tonight. I offered to get her a bus ticket to New Mexico, but she turned me down. I suspect that she was lying about New Mexico and may even be suffering from some kind of mild mental illness, but I have no doubt that she has been living and sleeping out of doors for a significant length of time. I'm naturally tan, and I spent nearly all day of every day last summer out in the sun, and I was never that dark. I can't imagine how much time you'd have to spend in the sun to get that tan.

I'm not sure if she'll still be there when I get back to the trailer house tomorrow. If she is, I'll offer to take her wherever she wants, at least as far as Abilene. That's the most I can do if she won't accept a bus ticket to wherever she's going. As depressing as the encounter is, however, it has reminded me of one thing... I have it pretty good.

I have a place to live. If I run out of money, I have friends and family to fall back on. I have skills that I can use to make a living, if I just keep hacking away at the job hunt long enough. I never have to worry about going hungry or not having a place to sleep. There's always a couch or a living room floor open to me, if things get that bad. Basically, life is pretty darn good.

It's funny how the world has a way of smacking you down when you start to feel too sorry for yourself.

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