Feb 21, 2015 - “What’s your perception of a Hitchhiker? – A story inspired by a young man who touched my heart.” by Ronald E. Rousseau
I was feeling a little stressed out after a long weekend. I traveled all the way to California for a basketball tournament. I had to borrow money from my parents because I had not received my income tax return yet. Additionally my team lost out of the tournament and missed out on an anticipated share in the jackpot. With my last $60 I landed back in Spokane. I spent $10 on a sandwich and $16 on my airport parking. I left the airport parking lot and was headed south, back towards Moscow where I go to school. I was still stressed thinking more about how broke I would be after filling the gas tank on my car. I barely had enough gas to get me home.
As I was driving along the heavily crowded highway and before I had a chance to fill my tank, I saw a young man hitchhiking. I quickly weaved through the traffic and pulled off onto the shoulder. I always pick up hitchhikers because I recall a few times in my past when I was stuck hitchhiking myself. Therefore my only explanation for why people do not pick up hitchhikers is because they do not know how bad it feels to struggle and to be without.
As I approached the young man I rolled my window down and told him to hop on in. He sat down in my car and placed his backpack on his lap. By the musky smell I could tell that he had been without clean clothes for many days. I struck a conversation with the young man. I asked his name, where he was from; you know, just the basics. It turned out that the young man is named Ronnie, twenty-three years old, and homeless. Ronnie was an orphan child who was adopted at the age of twelve. He never met his biological parents. To make things worse, the parents who adopted him never sent him to school. Instead, they made the fraudulent report that he was home schooled without actually providing him an education. Thanks to them the young man has only a 2nd grade education with no opportunity to pursue a GED because he was homeless with no family. As we discussed his challenges I could only imagine the struggle in which he faces on an everyday basis. The more he talked the more I realized how privileged my life is.
My heart was heavy and a lump began to swell in my throat as we neared his destination. There was one thing I desired to give him after a word of advice but because of my emotions I couldn’t get it out very effectively. However, I maintained my composure and shared my advice with him (in short sentences to avoid breaking down in tears). I told Ronnie, “When my relatives back home come to me in a hard time, I always tell them that there are people out there who are experiencing worse things than you. I was feeling sorry for myself before I seen you walking. Now, after hearing your struggles I want to let you know that if I could, I would give you everything possible to get you on your feet and help you get that GED. Because I do not have the means, here is some money and my business card. Try calling me in a few years. Maybe I will be rich one day and I can better help you then.” I gave Ronnie my last $36 as we parted ways.
There are no more humbling experiences in my life than when I help those in need. If an education were not so important I would drop out of school right now and help people for a living. If you are reading this short story please send a prayer to those in need, and to those who are in worse shape than you. Never forget that when you are down on your last buck, there is always someone out there who has it worse than you.
I consider myself a modern day warrior for my tribe. It is not enough to pursue an education; you must also remember those less fortunate and unable to pursue an education themselves. If the cards were shuffled any differently it could be any one of us stuck in Ronnie’s shoes.
“Young men, come now with me and show yourselves to be brave.” Lame White Man (1876).
Ronald E. Rousseau (Lakota)
2LT. Army National Guard