Have you ever hitch hiked? I haven't. I mean can you imagine standing by the side of the road, thumb out with your only chance of moving towards your destination being your own two legs or a vehicle that decides to stop because they've had this sudden surge of generosity...or just might be "off their rocker"?
My dad would probably fall into both categories and would openly admit it himself. He once bought a salmon colored stripped tank top that's decal read, "Chilly Willy Cool Groove, Funky as it Happens." It was a blue light special at Kmart that he picked up one summer before leaving for our beach vacation. But his generosity outshines any quirky t-shirt and his love for Jesus and his desire to live like Him is what would often take over the steering wheel guiding him to the side of the road to pick up a hitch hiker. He never stopped if our family was along and he always made it quite clear that my mom shouldn't partake in any hitch hiker relief efforts herself-- this was strictly "dad's thing".
Typically we only got to hear the stories about the vagabonds he picked up, but one particular night, I think it was spaghetti night (every family has one of those right?) we got to meet the real live hitch hiker, Robin. My dad had picked him up only to find out that he had quite a long journey ahead. He was in Pennsylvania but his end destination was much further north in Massachusetts, which I suppose qualified him for a rest stop at the "Martin Motel" for a spaghetti dinner. I remember him being fairly tall, with dirty blondish hair and a mustache. He was genuinely very polite and appreciative, and took a seat among the sea of blond heads with wide eyes. Who knows what he was thinking as he sat at our kitchen table that night sucking up his spaghetti and sipping his sweet tea...maybe it had been his first time in a long time eating a home cooked meal, and I can only assume that his opportunities to share a meal with a family around a dinner table were far and few between. I don't remember a lot about his story; why he was without a vehicle or what was waiting for him in Massachusetts, but as we wrapped up dinner my dad announced that he promised to drive Robin to the new York border. Those few extra miles would alleviate his need to find another generous soul and would aid him in getting that much closer to home. So after some brief good-byes around 7:00 that evening our new friend Robin hopped in the car with my dad to head a few hours north.
My dad never returned that night. He never called that night. My mom cried that night. We were snuggled into our beds that night. BUT, what you must quickly know is that my dad DID call that morning. He came home that morning and my mom still cried that morning, and rightly so :) So what happened? Well once he got to the New York border he decided to go a few extra miles and ended up transporting Robin the whole way home. Was it smart not to call? No, but I will say the term "cell phone" was not in our vocabulary let alone in our vehicles back then, and although my mom probably wanted to rip his head off, the minute my dad walked through the door all anger and worry instantly morphed into sheer happiness.
It was a classic case of his extreme generosity colliding with his "chilly willy cool groove funky as it happens" spirit. He must have been wearing that tank top under his flannel that day. Needless to say it will forever be a lesson to me in going the extra mile, which happened to be quite literal on this occasion. But more importantly it was the passion in my dad's heart to not just share Jesus with someone, but to live it in front of them. Matthew 5:41 says, "If anyone forces me to go one mile, i will go with him 2 miles. I will choose the more excellent way even when no one is looking."
My dad went more than 2 miles that night...it was more like 300 miles, but it wasn't about miles, it was about choosing the most excellent way just like the verse says. I don't have enough fingers to count how many time that story has flashed through my mind as I've found myself at that crossroad of doing a little or a doing a lot, that crossroad of choosing between giving it my best or giving it everything I got. That place of passing someone by or reaching out with open arms. It's provoked me to take the path less traveled by like Robert Frost mentions in his famous poem. And indeed I've found that those paths are traveled by people like my parents who love Jesus with all of their heart, soul and mind creating an overflow of love that rushes through sweeping up other "travelers" who are attempting to find their way.
So I encourage you...go the extra mile in love and in deed today...it may just be the mile that takes that friend, that wife, that son or daughter, OR complete stranger "home".
|Part of my desire for this blog is to document stories, pictures, etc. so that my kids will have a recorded "history" of the true legacy they belong too...passed on by my parents. Here they are standing behind a photo of them on their honeymoon :)|
Thanks for always being a tremendous example of being "extra milers" in life mom and dad!