I’m a 74 year old woman and I offer rides to strangers.
I started doing it way back in the 1970’s when my brother was hitchhiking 500 miles from the college he was attending to visit me on weekends. I felt like it was some kind of cosmic “hitchhiking insurance.” If I offered a ride to a stranger, someone just like me would do the same for my brother.
I’ve never stopped doing it. It’s simple. I’m in my car going somewhere and I see someone walking along who looks like they could use a ride — its 105 degrees outside, or they just missed their bus, or they’re fixing a flat tire on their bike — and I pull over and offer them one.
I’m careful about it. But I’m not afraid and, over the years I have never been frightened by anyone I’ve offered a ride to. I seriously doubt that someone walking down the street loaded down with groceries is on his way to a robbery or a shooting.
“Why do you do it?” I’ve been asked. “It’s a nice thing to do, yes. But why do you do it?”
I’ve thought about it.
Why do I do it.
First of all, reaching out to a perfect stranger makes me feel good about myself.
Not because I’ve done something “special,” but because I’ve been able to offer exactly the kind of help to someone that they needed. Because the shoe fit. We often have the impulse to help others but there are not many times that kind of perfect fit happens.
What usually happens is that we offer help —
“I can take care of your dog while you’re at the doctor’s office,”
“I can pick up some groceries for you while I’m at the store,”
“I can take one night with your baby so you can get some sleep”
—and for whatever reason, people say no thank you.
When they say yes thank you, though, it’s like hitting the jackpot. Everybody feels good about it and it’s a win-win situation.
Another important reason I offer rides to strangers is because I want to hone my ability to discern a “dangerous” person from a “not-dangerous” person. It’s a skill—or gut feeling—I don’t want to lose touch with and I honestly believe it’s like a muscle. Use it or lose it.
Today we go online to check out a person’s background before we even have them over to the house to make repairs or before we answer their personal ad or go out to dinner with them in a public place. None of that really tells me as much as my gut about another person’s trustworthiness.
Ultimately, being able to hear what my gut is telling me is what helps me to experience my world as a safe and sane place.
I also offer rides to people simply because it’s the right thing to do and I can do it. I have a car they don’t have a car, why not just share?
After all, I’m inside my car—as warm or as cold as I need to be —and there are people out on the streets who don’t have the same luxury. They have to scrabble to get to work or scrabble to get their groceries or scrabble to get their kids to daycare. For some people, everything is a scrabble and that just hasn’t been the case for me.
I’ve always had a life with a regular paycheck and a safety net to catch me if I fall. Not everybody can say that and I don’t want to forget it.
So, I would say in the end I pick up strangers and give them rides because ultimately I get a lot more out of it than the people I pick up do.
But then, that’s the way with reaching out isn’t it? The person doing the reaching always gains as much, if not more, from having done it.
Author Bio: Carmelene Melanie Siani
Carmelene writes stories from every day life and how life itself offers lessons to help us grow, expand, and put our feet on higher ground.