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Can People Be Kind, Nice, Generous And Loving?

Feb 28, 2008
I ask myself many times, "Why did I make such a journey?" What was I hoping for? Was it for adventure? Was I trying to prove something to myself, to others? What was my final objective to this horrid, unpleasant, tormenting, and yes, at times, delightful, gratifying and fascinating journey?

Through my book, A Place to Belong, I'm going to relate to you, the reader, a few of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly." There really is such a conglomeration existing and I'll have to admit, there are more good then the bad and the ugly.

I met many people that are out to claim whatever they can from you. Your valuables, be it money, clothes or jewelry. How about a temporary friendship? Yes, that too. It's referred to as "using you." How about renting you out on an hourly basis? Oh, yes! Lots of ways to do that. Let me tell you about some of them.

The usual and most common one is - "what can I get from you 'immediately'?" It's called robbery, pilfering or snatching. I was held up at gunpoint by two teenagers and forced to give them all my valuables. They got my money, lighter, cigarettes and my pocketknife. I was upset about everything, but that pocketknife really hurt, because it was given to me by a very dear friend.

One night my small satchel of belongings was lifted while I slept in a bus station. I didn't have very much, but then, I had nothing.

I was sitting in a park one day eating a sandwich with a soft drink a candy bar and pleasantly watching the animals play and scrounge for food. Three boys approached me and snatched my food and ran off. I was really upset, because the sandwich was my favorite. But, I figured they must have needed the food more than I did.

How about a temporary friendship? Yep, had that happened several times. They find out what your position is, your capabilities and what can they get out of you? You feel comfortable with them and enjoy their company. Then after their scheme or plans are fulfilled, they're gone. Disappeared. You thought you had a friend and now what do you have?

The worst one, and the scariest one is, renting yourself out by the hour, day or week. I came very close to being a victim of this con-job and didn't realize it until it was explained to me later. After a very frightful night and almost getting picked up for vagrancy, I headed back to the road.

A painted school bus stopped and opened the door. "Hey gringo, you want ride?" the bus driver asked. I put my foot on the first step. "How far you going?"

He motioned with his hand for me to get on the bus, a smile sweet like hot peppers. "Come, ride, come come." I got on and took any empty seat five rows back. He closed the door, and we bumped forward down the road.

The bus was loaded with Mexicans, migrant workers, I assumed. The driver kept talking to three men in the seats next to him. From time to time one of these three would look back at me and laugh. It was discomforting. I checked the reactions of the others on the bus. The women were very still. I watched their faces as the driver and men talked. Some would grimace and swallow hard. Some didn't move a muscle and some rolled their eyes and shook their heads in disgust.

The bus made a right turn on a dirt road. I jumped from my seat and ran to the driver saying I wanted to get off. He ignored me and kept driving. I grabbed him on the shoulder and hollered at him to stop. He pushed my arm away. The three men got out of their seats and headed towards me. I jerked the door handle, ran down the steps and jumped. Luckily, because of the bumpy dirt road, the bus wasn't going fast. I hit the ground and rolled over and over in the sand and dirt. When I finally stopped I wasn't surprised to see that the bus didn't even stop to see how I was.

I walked back to the highway and stuck out my thumb. Got a few short rides and then late into the day a rig stopped and I hopped in.

"The name's Mack," he said turning the big wheel of the rig back onto the pavement. He was a bear of a man, with the ball of his stomach tucked under the steering wheel. He didn't ask too many questions, just the necessary ones, like where you going, where you from.

He could tell I was sleepy, and he told me I could sleep if I wanted to, I said, "I really would like to, if you don't mind."

"No, go right ahead. Roll your jacket up and lean it against the corner of the door and go to sleep."

After a few hours of sleep, Mack and I started talking about several things. I told him about being picked up by the Mexicans in a bus and how I got away. He told me I was lucky to get away.

"They pick up young kids like you and take them to the fields, make them work. The straw boss pays them and the poor sucker that got picked up gets dumped back on the street with no money. Happens all the time. Sad part about it, they have no one to complain to because the law doesn't care."

"How long do they keep these people they pick up?"

"Depends on how long they go out for. One day, two days, even a week or two."

I felt kind of sick to my stomach and slumped down and thanked Noah for watching over me. I vaulted over another catastrophe.

Enough of the bad escapades. Let me tell you about the good people. There are many, but I'm only going to relate the one that really impressed and lifted my feelings and spirits for a high ride into the clouds.

I stood at an intersection where the road split. My feet throbbed. I was shaking so hard from the cold that my arm looked like it was waving hello, up and down, to every car that whizzed by. I stuck at it for two hours and finally went into a little store with a gas station across the street.

As I entered, the lady behind the counter said, "Wondered how long you'd last out there. What are you doing hitchhiking for, anyway?" I was trembling so hard I couldn't answer her. She came up to me and said, "Well, are you going to say something?"

"Yes ma'am. Soon as I can breathe good."

"Are you hungry?"

"Yes ma'am. Starved."

"You look like hell. When's the last time you had a good night's sleep?"

"Four days."

"All right," she said. "Get warm. I'll get you something to eat. I got an empty cabin in the back. It doesn't have a bed or anything, but it's warm and empty. You can spend the night there." She fixed me a hot meal, took me back to the cabin, gave me a pillow and blanket, looked at me and ordered, "Now sleep."

The cabin had an oil space heater in the middle of the room. I curled up in the blanket and lay down by the stove feeling ever so thankful. I slept for fourteen hours. When I got up I folded the blanket, put the pillow on top and took them back to the store. The lady was standing behind the counter when I walked in.

She smiled at me. "Boy, I had to check on you a couple of times. Thought maybe you died out there during the night."

She fixed me some breakfast, packed me a big lunch, gave me five dollars and said, "Now get your ass home and off the road!"

As I was leaving, she came around the counter and gave me a big hug. I could feel my eyes start to water. Her eyes were full of tears, too. I went back to my spot on the road and got a ride within minutes. I could see her standing in the store watching me. I figured she must have a kid that was like me or something, to do what she did for me. She was one fine lady. Yet I didn't even get her name.
About the Author
Paul Miller is the author of A Place to Belong. This is his first novel and he wanted to write it desperately for 50+ years. But, bearing one's soul to the world can be a very scary adventure. For more information, please visit his website: A Place to Belong.
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