The Hitchhiker

He stood by the stop sign with his thumb out in the mid-afternoon sun, but I knew I was not going far, and so I did not acknowledge his unspoken request. As I looked left down the hill, waiting for a break in traffic, he knocked on the passenger-side window. I could see his breath rising in little puffs as he shoved his hands back into the pockets of his heavy coat, stomping his heavy boots on the black ice of the asphalt. He was my age, perhaps a touch older, clean-cut, and when he smiled questioningly, the creases around his eyes deepened. I cracked the window to hear his question.

“Ma’am? A ride to Cedar Ridge, maybe?”

I smiled an apology. “I’m not going that far – I’m only going another block. I’m sorry.”

He nodded in return. “No problem. Have a nice day.”

My response to him was true – I was not going far at all, and he was better off waiting for somebody else to come along, somebody who might get him closer to his destination. But still. Even if my plans had matched his, I almost certainly would have offered him an excuse instead of a lift. It’s something we’ve discussed, agreed upon, Jonathan and I – that when I am on my own, alone in the car, I will not pick up hitchhikers, especially if they are men. There are valid reasons for this, of course – safety (for both myself and my unborn child), and propriety, and others – and it makes sense. Though our area is home to a large number of people who rely on the generosity of others to get where they need to go, though nearly all of them are completely harmless, there are
risks and there are horror stories and there are plenty of others who can help. It makes sense, and it is honoring the wishes of the one who loves me most in the world that I drive right past those with their thumbs out on the side of the highway.

Still, there’s a twinge when I drive by somebody in need, a voice whispering about the least of these. And I’m not always sure what to do with that.

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