Jesus Christ and Other Hitchhikers

By: Steve Gillman

Having hitchhiked many thousands of miles when I was younger, I feel for hitchhikers trying to thumb a ride these days. At least back in my hitchhiking days people still regularly stopped for you. Not so anymore. When my wife and I stop to give someone a ride, we often hear that the poor guy was waiting for a day or two for a ride.

Jesus Christ, for example, waited for two-and-a-half days in Gunnison, Colorado, before my wife said, "He looks okay," and we pulled over to give him a ride. He was headed for Montana because God had told him that was where he would be needed next. He was hesitant to tell me his name, but then when he did, and he saw that I wasn't surprised (we have picked up a lot of hitchhikers), he opened right up, and let us know that he was THE Jesus Christ.

In case you run into him, Jesus is about five-foot nine-inches, with neatly combed long hair - a mix of blond and gray, and is sixty-four years old. He is thin, as you might expect after 25 years of being homeless. One eye is slightly larger than the other, the result of an brain aneurysm that burst when he was living on the streets of Tucson six years ago. He carries a walking stick, with the top carved into a fish head, because, as he told me, "All the prophets carry a staff."

He drinks water from rivers and sleeps wherever he finds himself each night. However, struggling to put his 60-pound rolling suitcase into the van, I realized he still likes a few comforts. His next destination is wherever God sends him. He is very appreciative if you give him a ride, and will reward you with hours of bible verses and assurances that the end times are near - which he seems very happy about. He is even more appreciative if you help him out with lunch money, so he can, as he put it "continue doing my job."

Hitchhikers - What Else To Expect

Times have changed, and while it is much harder to get a ride now, it is also true that the typical hitchhiker is not the same as he or she used to be. A few weeks before Jesus we picked up a woman who had just discovered that you need to be in a car to visit a state prison. They wouldn't let her walk in the prison gate to visit her husband, who was there for a few years after having been turned in by her sister and daughter for some unspecified crime. Our ride would take her to town to get a cell phone so she could track down her ride to prison.

A month or two before that we gave a ride to a fifty-five-year-old man who looked sixty-five. He wandered the country, occasionally doing carpentry work, or otherwise asking people like us for a little money to go with the ride. We gave him some food instead. Both he and the other homeless gentleman we picked up a month before him were really nice people.

Homelessness seems to be the norm among those traveling by thumb these days, but it is apparently a lifestyle choice. None of the many homeless people we have picked up hitchhiking seemed to have problems with alcohol or drugs, and they all have been normal mentally (well, unless Jesus wasn't who he said he was). Universally they seem to be decent people who express no real interest in getting a job, and are relatively content or resigned to life on the road and in the parks and shelters of various cities. Having never cared much for jobs myself, I can understand.

By the way, if this assessment offends anyone, all I can say is that I am reporting our experience. We do regularly pick up hitchhikers.

Should you stop to give someone a ride? We like to, but I can't answer that for you. If you do, however, keep your eyes open. We once pulled over to pick up two guys in their twenties, and as soon as the door was open, their third friend and his large pregnant German Sheppard appeared from the bushes. They were great company, and the dog was well behaved, but after a year on the road, they had accumulated a lot of luggage - which ended up tied to the roof.

We were traveling the country in our Ford Escort, so adding three big guys, a pregnant German Sheppard and a lot of luggage to the car created quite an adventure. The car didn't want to stop so easily going down those mountain roads in New Mexico and Arizona, and it was riding awfully close to the pavement. Then, after carrying these guys a couple hundred miles, one of them asks for money! Shamelessness pays, I guess.

The bottom line is, you never know what you're going to get when you give a stranger a ride. My wife says she's ready to quit picking up people. We got Jesus last time, and she's worried we might get the devil himself next time. But fortunately, we haven't met a bad hitchhiker yet.

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