a fellow traveler

Quincy, MI

Yesterday as I was sitting in the library, a man came in and asked the librarian to help him contact the local churches. He said he was walking, had walked all night, and needed a place to sleep and wash. She pulled out the phone book.

After he reached a few answering machines and one pastor told him no, I approached the man. Some people had been very generous to me recently, so I had more money than usual, and thought this might be a good use for it. I told the man I was walking too and offered to share a motel room with him.

He hesitated, then tried calling a few more churches. When the second pastor he talked to also said no, he finally came over to where I was sitting.

His name is John. Probably in his 50s. He's traveling, hitchhiking mostly, from Colorado to upstate New York, where there is a job for him. He had been playing guitar in bars along the way to collect some money, but then someone who picked him up drove off with his guitar and backpack, everything he had. Now he's carrying a bag and some clothes that Goodwill gave him.

We found the only motel in town--a nice one--and then went to dinner together. We talked quite a bit about my travels and the reason for them. On the way back, he stopped to buy some cigarettes and a beer, not a great use of the few dollars he had left. But then as we left the store, he noticed that the cashier had given him a dollar too much in change. So he went back. "I try to be honest," he said. "I've learned it makes a difference. Some people call it karma, but I just think God pays attention to those things... I'm not always good, but I try." I nodded. "And the more we try," I replied, "the easier it gets."

So we both got fed and clean and a good night's sleep. And there was free breakfast at the motel this morning, though I left before the office opened. As I started walking, I remembered the man who had given me some money as I was leaving the men's breakfast last Saturday. He had smiled and said, "I'm sure you'll find someone to give this to."