My mother has always been a very trusting person. I can remember always stopping for hitch hikers whenever we could. Even when she had a car full of little kids she would still go out of her way to give a stranger a ride. One time when I was just a toddler she had a sore back and she saw a hitch hiker picked him up and asked him to drive so she could rest. I also can’t remember ever going up the mountain to go ski without filling every seat up at the bottom with people who need rides. When I was 13 we went on a family trip across Canada from coast to coast. We saw a lot of amazing things on that month long road trip but some of the most memorable things about that trip are the people we met along the way and gave rides to. I still remember two different couples we picked up. One couple was boyfriend girlfriend and the other was two lesbians. I still remember the things we talked about and the fun we had together. The lesbian couple was actually with us for about 4 days. They were going the same way so we just road tripped together, camped together, and played together.
I always thought this was pretty normal growing up. I never even contemplated the danger of hitch hiking. My mom always just saw the good in people and was willing to take a chance on them. It wasn’t until I got my own car and moved out that I found out how taboo hitch hiking had become in our society. I’d pick up people and through talking to them I’d learn how hard it was for them to get picked up. When I told friends that I had picked someone up they acted like I just risked my life. It was strange to see how most people are so scared of a stranger and what that stranger could possibly do to them they won’t even give someone they didn’t know a short ride in their car.
I have continued to pick up hitch hikers. I’ve met a lot of very interesting people. Not too long ago a shared seven hours of my drive down to school with a liberal atheist Jew (that’s how he described himself). We talked about religion, politics, and the meaning of life. Those kinds of conversations don’t happen outside hitch hiking in my life. I have never met a stranger and talked for seven hours about important things outside of my car. I have learned a lot from people that have ridden with me. I’ve never been killed, rapped or car jacked. Not to say that stuff doesn’t happen, but it hasn’t happened to me. I guess it is a real risk, but I’m honestly ok with taking that risk. I would prefer to see the good in people. I’m willing to risk my life to maintain my hope in the human race. The day I’m too frightened to talk to a stranger or give a ride to someone in need is the day I will move up into the mountains and be a hermit.
So to summarize I believe in the good in people and the day I don’t believe in the good in people is the day I don’t want to be around people anymore.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.