Grandma Lola: The Hitchhiker

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Growing up as a little boy in the 60’s and 70’s it was a very different world. I spent a lot of time on the road with my grandmother. We went out of town visiting family and friends which often took us not only all over Florida but all the states in between Florida and Pennsylvania and one special trip to Canada.  More on that trip later.

Back in those days there were a lot of hitchhikers. Most of the time they were military trying to get from one town to another.  Some had just come back from the war, others were men that just needed to get somewhere.  No matter where we went, we never passed a hitchhiker without stopping to offer them a ride, never. This was a little unnerving for me and even more unnerving for my mother, but my grandmother didn’t care.  Helping people was in her DNA and if she saw someone in need she helped. Granted, in those days we didn’t have the heightened concerns that exist today.

There was one particular instance that stands out for me that taught me a lesson regarding the power of generosity. On one of our trips down to south Florida we happened to pass a broken-down truck on the side of the road. It was some type of delivery truck and the man standing by the truck trying to get a ride seemed to be in great despair.  As always, we pulled up alongside the truck and grandma spoke to the man to see what help she may be able to offer. He said that he believed he needed a part, but we were 10 miles outside of the nearest town. Grandma insisted that we take him into town to get the part that he needed and off we went.   Of course, we waited and as soon as the part was secured we took him back to truck. But, did we just drop him off and go on our way?  No, grandma of course helped him fix the truck.

When he was done, he went to the back of the truck and took out a little box and handed it to me to say thank you.  You see, this was no ordinary truck.  The reason he was in such despair was that he was hauling packaged food that the astronauts used on their space flights and that was exactly what was in the box he gave to me.   To this day I wish I saved it.  But I was hungry, so of course I ate it!  However, in consuming it I also learned a lesson of compassion and caring that resonates with me all these years later.

A small act of kindness can very often be rewarded with a corresponding act of kindness, even when it isn’t expected.   Most likely today one would never think of picking up a hitchhiker on the side of the road. The world is a lot different and a lot scarier than in those days.  My guess is though that if there is any chance there are cars in heaven, grandma’s door is still wide open to anyone she passes.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.


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