I picked him up the other day on a hot sunny afternoon on the outskirts of Childress. I don’t know how long he’d been standing on the side of the road looking for a ride out of town, but I offered him something to drink and he took me up on my offer. He looked to be in his sixties and was obviously homeless.
I stuck out my hand when he got in my pickup and said, “Hi, I’m Trey. Where you headed?”
He told me his name was Dan and that he was headed towards Amarillo. I smiled and told him he was standing on the wrong road if he was trying to get to Amarillo.
“No wonder, I haven’t got a ride all morning,” he said. “Can you get me where I need to be?”
We drove to McDonald’s where I asked if he’d like to go in and eat where we could sit in the air conditioning. He said the drive up was fine because he was burning daylight and really needed a ride. I told him to order anything he wanted, he chose 3 hamburgers and a Dr. Pepper.
As we pulled out of the drive-thru he pointed and asked if he could stop at a dumpster. It may have been the confused look on my face, but he immediately said, “I need some cardboard to make a sign that says ‘Amarillo’ on it. I always do better getting rides if I have a sign.”
When we looked in the dumpster nothing was within reach. He actually started trying to climb his 60 year old body over the side of the dumpster, when I told him to hold on, I’d go. So I jumped in and dug around until I found an old box that had McDonald’s stamped on the side of it. I smiled and thought to myself how odd this must look to people driving by … me inside a trash dumpster while a homeless man stood by and watched.
We found the cardboard and then drove to the edge of town where he could get a ride on the right road. Traffic buzzed by as we sat on the back of my tailgate and made his “Amarillo” sign. After a few minutes of visiting, I apologized that I couldn’t take him to Amarillo myself. I then gave him my phone number with instructions to call me if he didn’t get a ride.
“We’ll get you a place to stay tonight if we need too,” I told him.
As I watched him finish off his burger, I couldn’t help but wonder who he was, where he was from, and how he ended up where he was. No one ever sets out in life to be homeless. As I watched him unload all his backpack from my pickup, I privately thanked God for reminding me today how blessed I am. I have a home, a family and food. I also thanked God for putting Dan in my life today. I had felt blessed to get to hang out with him for an hour.
He shook my hand and thanked me just before I drove off. “Call me if you don’t get a ride,” was the last thing I told him.
About an hour later I drove back by to check on Dan. He was gone. I’m glad he got a ride, and I’m glad I made a new friend.