I hitched a 35 mile ride to nowhere just after noon the next day, and spent a few hours walking in circles at the bottom of the ramp, taking in the splendor of the glorious, barren prairies, eclipsed only by a bright blue sky. A cool breeze cut down on the heat, and I strained the last drops of sunscreen from the tube I bought in Pueblo. Of the terrain in New Mexico, I can only say that it is beautiful, my knowledge of the desert not able to discern the difference between cactus and sagebrush. For a more picturesque description, read Edward Abbey. I’m just a Florida boy stuck by the road here, putting myself at the mercy of those who share the hot, spring asphalt.
Now, I understand that in this day and age of fear, trepidation, and cynicism, picking up a drifter is not item one on most anyone’s To Do list, and I’m not complaining about my station in life. Hours of waiting leave ample time for thought and deliberation, which I am trying to make a more engaged habit. But I fail to understand how two hours worth of passing motorists can drive by someone standing on the side of the road, 35 miles from anywhere, and not stop for help. Have we become so jaded? Have we become so selfish? Have we become so afraid of every person outside of ourselves that we can’t even muster up the most minute amount of compassion to our fellow man?
It seems that we have lost our ability to reach out. No longer do we have the heart-felt charity that was shown by the Good Samaritan, to put the care of those less fortunate into our own hands and do the bidding of whatever god we may worship, or at least rise to the definition of human kindness. Our charities now are often run as corporations, businesses of wary goodness so the good people of our nation only dirty their hands on a leaky check-writing pen or the bacteria thriving in our currency, but never actually on the arm of one who needs a hand up.
We’ve made it far too easy to exchange currency for charity. In this workaday world, I know it’s often hard to find time, let alone energy, to truly serve your fellow man, and the writing of a check certainly does lessen the guilt of having it good while others have it bad, as well as offering substantial tax breaks. But I must maintain that there is an inherent salvation in helping an actual person as opposed to a side-note in our accounting. I’ve written a twenty dollar check for my church to spend in whatever way they deem necessary, and I’ve also bought a five dollar sandwich for a hungry man. There is by far much more satisfaction in the latter.
This is an excerpt of The Rucksack Letters by Steve McAllister. Buy your copy of the eBook on Amazon.com.