It was a beautiful spring day, and as I approached the interstate ramp I saw a young man standing on the grass with a sign. I waited for oncoming traffic to pass so I could cross over to the on-ramp, and as I sat there I read the sign. It read: “Anywhere.” I looked at the young man in his jeans, T-shirt and baseball cap. He had a backpack on the ground next to him, and as I crossed over I looked at him.
I have been warned never to look at a hitchhiker because they are “all bad people.” I do not believe that theory. I believe we are all different, and that is what makes us special. I also believe that we are not all presented with the same opportunities and skills, and still look for the good in people until proven otherwise.
As I continued on my journey I thought about the young hitchhiker. Was he looking for change or an opportunity to do something meaningful? Had he been bullied into believing that he could not accomplish any good or make a difference? What brought him to the interstate entrance with the hope of a free ride to a better place?
It reminded me that we tend to pay more attention to those in need during the holidays. But for some reason we feel that our “annual obligation” to those less fortunate is completed for the year and that the problem goes away in January and does not reappear until Thanksgiving.
People need to eat every day and need our assistance. It is not a matter of handing out freebies, but the opportunity to assist those who have not had the love and support of strong family ties and a good education. Each day should be dedicated to setting an example of “how to” and encouraging positive behaviors.
As I exited the interstate returning home I looked for him. He was gone. Hopefully, his next destination will allow him the opportunity to “make a change” in his life. I pray it is not too late. I believe that change comes from within and starts again, as the song reads, “with the man in the mirror.” But sometimes a kind word, gesture or even acknowledgment with a smile can provoke change.
Let’s help with the change. Take an hour each week to help at-risk children or families in need. Support our returning veterans and thank them for keeping us safe. Time is our most valuable asset, so put it to good use. Make a difference — anywhere.