Within a few minutes we exited the interstate. I turned right toward the truck stop. I was also looking for a hotel within walking distance. I had decided to purchase a hotel room for the wearied traveler. He was beyond grateful.
After finding the truck stop, we pulled into the parking lot of a nearby Quality Inn. I parked the Explorer, and we entered the lobby. The lady at the check-in desk greeted us with a pleasant smile, "Do you have reservations?"
"No," I responded. "Do you honor Triple A memberships?"
"Or veterans?" chimed in the traveler.
"We honor both," she answered. "Same discount at 10%"
The traveler pulled out his empty wallet and showed the clerk his veteran identification. There was a wallet size photo of him in his Navy sailor uniform from over 30 years ago. He must be proud of that four years he spent in the Navy.
I paid cash for the room. "Do you happen to have any ibuprofen or something for a headache?" I asked the clerk.
We exited the lobby and hopped back in the Explorer. I drove around the side of the hotel closer to where the room was located. I checked my first aid kits for any pain medicine. Nothing.
I handed one of the first aid kits to the traveler. "Here, you can have this. I have another one. This one was free from Target. It has no ibuprofen, but it has band aids and antibiotic ointment." Earlier he had shared with me about a cut on his leg which he'd been treating with peroxide. The ointment could help heal it and keep any infection away.
I carried his tote bag while he carried his sleeping roll and pulled the suitcase on wheels to the hotel door.
"Here's some cash so you can get some food and ibuprofen." I handed him the last of the cash bills from my hip pack.
"You don't have to do that," he responded.
"I know." I said. "I want to though. I used to give money to a church; now I do stuff like this." I struggled saying the word "church;" I don't consider The Way a "church." But I didn't want to use the word "cult."
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Daniel," he replied.
"I'm Carol, Daniel. Good luck," I said as I shook his hand.
"Thank you. Thank you. God bless you," he replied.
I half-way smiled and nodded. I climbed back into my 1999 gray Ford Explorer.
On my twenty-five minute drive home from Mocksville to Winston I thought of my recent wrestling with apathy, something I'd labeled a "slow death." I thought of my recent struggles with loss and grief and guarding my heart from becoming jaded and crusty. I thought of a prayer I'd written the night before in my journal.
I thought about Geri whom I had talked with earlier in the afternoon at the dentist office; her boyfriend had been going through treatment for stage 4 cancer. I thought about Daniel, the hitch hiking veteran.
I felt a mixture of somberness and sorrow, humbleness and gratitude, pensiveness and redemption.
Earlier in the day before I had left on my excursions, I had gathered my recent payments from clients. I had recorded the check payments on a bank account deposit slip. I had looked at the cash payments consisting of five $20 bills and thought, I usually only carry $40 to $60 cash on me. I should probably put a few of these 20s upstairs with our hidden cash-stash. But I don't feel like walking upstairs. Boy Carol, that's really lame; it's just upstairs. Bleh. You'll eventually spend the money; just put it in your hip pack. Little did I know that by that evening, my zippered pocket that held my cash would be empty.
Tears trickled down my cheeks.
Maybe I wasn't so very apathetic after all.
Maybe my heart was still tender.
On my way home from the dentist... (part one)
On my way home from the dentist... (part two)
On my way home from the dentist... (part three)
On my way home from the dentist... (part four)