Sometimes a small act for us can change someone else’s life. We invited Justin G. back this week to share the thank you that saved his life:
Hitchhiking around the country for a couple months tends to cause one to lose track of days in a way that the common world doesn’t understand. I thumbed a ride from Gulfport to New Orleans, thinking it would be a fun place to visit. When I arrived, I realized Mardi Gras was only four days away. Every surf-able couch, floor, and broom closet was booked to overflowing, not to mention hotels and motels, which I could not afford anyway. All the good bushes and benches had already been claimed as well as most of the bad ones.
My attempts to hitchhike out of the city were met with glares from citizens and threats from police, and more official modes of transportation were either closed for the parades or too expensive for my meager budget. I was trapped in The Big “Easy” with a difficult situation: My backpack was nearly stolen twice when I tried to sleep in a park, and I was chased from every potential rest spot by cops or property owners. I kept myself awake by walking constantly, carrying my 55-lb backpack and a growing paranoia that disaster was ready to strike the moment I stopped. So it went for four days.
Salvation came when two exchange students whom I’d met the month before, Bruno and Alay, recognized my backpack. Recognizing my dire straits, they shepherded me back to the house they were watching, where they fed me, gave me fresh clothes and bedding, and most importantly a secure place to rest. Thirty hours later, I awoke to find them keeping patient vigil over my slumber.
I don’t know what would have happened if Bruno and Alay hadn’t helped me that night, but I know the ending would not have been good. Of course I thanked them at the time, but the significance of their kindness didn’t dawn on me until after my trip had ended months later. Even in this world laden with social media, I haven’t been able to find them to properly thank them. Until our paths cross again, I gratify their actions the only way I can – by living more consciously with the wisdom and perspective I gleaned from that experience and, most important, paying their kindness forward to others.
Justin’s story shows us that gratitude is a cycle – sometimes we pay it backward and sometimes we pay it forward. Either way, the world is better. This week’s deeper lesson: don’t hitchhike into New Orleans during Mardi Gras.