The front doors of the Chelsea, Oklahoma Police Department opened and in walked Garry. He was a tall, stocky, burly, rather hairy fellow. He was hitchhiking half way across the country to be with his sister in Kentucky. He had big beautiful kind eyes. He was nearing 60 years of age. He was 6 foot 4 or maybe 5 and somewhere between 275-300 pounds. He was not a fat man. His height carried his weight well.
He was halfway to his destination. He was tired, hungry and in need of a long hot bath. I called the local ministerial alliance and they got him a room for the night in the only hotel in town. My traveler was provided not only with a safe place to retire with a clean bed, fresh soap, hot and cold running water, but the hotel owners graciously provided him with a hot evening meal. He arrived with $5 and 1 can of beans to his name. He left rested, clean, full and with a knapsack full of goodies.
He and I reminisced about the “Good Old Days” when gas was 11 cents a gallon and 3 pennies bought a soda pop. We both remembered when you returned the glass pop bottle and got a penny back. We exchanged life stories filled with trauma and triumph and both felt warmed simply by sharing our testimonies.
I was deeply touched by a particular part of our conversation. For as long as I am alive I will remember how I felt as he handed me his Veterans identification card and asked me to make a copy of it for our files. He explained how he had served in Vietnam and told me of his experiences there. I thanked him for his service to our country. As I looked into his all-speaking eyes he said, “Ma’am there are folks out there who have been lost along the way, gone forever with no trace. As I make my way to Kentucky I am leaving a paper trail. If I never make it to my sister’s door at least you will remember me and be able to tell my tale. I handed his ID back saying from my heart, “Garry rest assured I will forever remember sharing life with you today.”
*Originally published in 2011 Associated Content.