Mike McGough
June 2021

As an OTR trucker, she spent a good deal of time on the road.  From her vantage point behind the wheel, she had a unique view of the world.  Because she covered a rather wide area that included five states, that view was pretty broad.  She once said that from her seat she got to see the good, the not so good, and the downright confusing.  One of the downright confusing happened recently.

For a number of months, she noticed two things that made no sense to her.  They were kind of opposite, and for her they were confusing.  The first thing she noticed, was a marked increase in the number of folks standing along the road or at busy intersections holding signs indicating that they were out of work, and in some cases homeless as well.

As an empathetic person, she saw a need, and she wanted to help fill it.  She was by no means rich by any standard, but she had work, she made good money, and she was able to financially care for herself.  She was thankful for what she had, and that awareness added a good measure of generosity to her empathy.  When she could, she always offer a buck or two to folks in need.  

The second trend she noticed was a marked increase in the number of business that had posted notices on wall banners, lot signs, billboards, and electronic message boards that carried messages like, HELP WANTED, JOBS AVAILABLE, and IMMEDIATE OPENINGS FOR. . ..  Some signs went so far as to post hourly rates and benefits, and some actually offered signing bonuses.  As the number of those signs increased, she did not notice a corresponding decrease in the number of folks looking for donations just to get by.  That puzzled her,and even though she later felt bad for even entertaining the thought, it angered her a bit too.  It was like someone was on the verge of drowning and someone else was offering life jackets, but they didn’t seem to notice each other.  That realization moved her to act.  

On that particular day, she spotted a man standing at a busy intersection holding a small sign. The sign he held read, HELP—NO JOB. As cars passed through the intersection where he was standing, those so inclined stopped and offered something. In the moment, they had indeed helped.  He welcomed the bit of aid they provided, and they had the opportunity to show some empathy and compassion for someone in need.  

When she passed through that same intersection, she saw something else. When she looked at his face, she saw hopelessness and despair.  If a person’s expression could speak, his said, “I just don’t know what to do.”  From the cab of her truck, she handed him a five, but she felt like she had patronized him instead of helping him.  She was making a delivery to a distribution center less than a mile from where she sawhim. When she arrived to unload, she was informed that there would be a delay of at least four hours, because they were shorthanded.  They needed loading dock help desperately.

She decided to go for a walk.  She also had a thought that ultimately gave her walk a little more purpose than just some exercise.  She walked back to the guy standing in the intersection. He recognized her and immediately thanked her again for the money she had given him.  “I may be able to offer you more than a five, if you’re interested.”  He was, and they walked back toward the distribution center together.  By the time it was her turn to unload, he was standing on the dock, wearing a new pair of gloves and a smile.   

When her truck was unloaded, he came up beside her rig and tapped on her door.  Holding up the five that she had given him earlier in the day he said, “Here, this is yours; I don’t need it anymore. Thank you very much!”  She told him to keep it and pass it on to someone who needed it.  He smiled and said he would.

She took a chance that day, and it paid off well.  She saw not one but two people in need, she took the time to bring them together, and she changed both of their life situations for the better.  Clearly, not everyone needs or wants others to mind their business. Conversely, there are now and there always will be those among us who do need our help, and they are open to receiving it.  

Empowering others with a hand up can be an act of kindness, compassion, and charity that keeps on giving long after the benefits of a handout are gone!