Tribute to a Pioneer

Posted May 13, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

In Sacramento, a single mom rose early in the morning, got kids off to school and then went to school herself. Not just any school, Dee Sova was learning to drive a truck. It was a day and time twenty five years ago that women just didn’t do that. Yet, Dee recognized it was a great way to provide for her family and was willing to endure the criticism and ridicule to make a better life for her family.

Defying the odds, this lady became a Class A CDL truck driver and has continued blazing the trail for other women for more than a quarter century. At the pinnacle of her success, tragedy struck in the worst possible way for a mom… and for a commercial driver. Her daughter was struck and killed by a drunk driver right in front of her high school. 

Suffering an insurmountable loss, Dee continued to forge ahead, only now with another commit to help spread the word about drunk driving and hopefully prevent such a needless tragedy for others. Through grief immeasurable, she pushed ahead, joining forces with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). She took her pain and is turning it into gain. 

Dee mentors women who are truckers and those who want to be. In fact, she is responsible for me making the final decision to become a trucker babe. She is the real deal and poured into me, a total stranger, in such a way I felt safe entering the strange and foreign world called trucking.

She gives every ounce of energy she has for others. And she helps others endure the horrific pain of losing a child, something so unnatural that no parent should have to go through it. Dee has partnered with her company, Swift, to raise awareness and funds to be able to continue the great ministry of MADD. This giver is asking for our help. Swift is matching funds she raises dollar for dollar. This will make available the help for others at a time they need it the most–when they are suffering through the senseless loss of a child because someone was so irresponsible, they consumed alcohol and got behind the wheel of an automobile.

My prayer for each of you reading this is that you never suffer the way Dee and so many others have when they get that dreaded call telling you your child was killed by a drunk driver. Unfortunately in our country, it happens every day. There is an army of mothers like Dee who stand at the ready to help during that moment and the emotional maze that follows. 

If you are able to contribute to Dee’s MADD team in any way, it would go twice as far to keep this needed ministry going. I did donate and count it a privilege to partner with her in this way. I’ve never done this before on my blog but this is one cause I hope we all support and never need.

Thank you, Dee, for being my truck driving mom. Thank you for sowing into my life in such a powerful way. Thank you for allowing me to give back to you in such a tangible way.

If you would like to read Dee’s story and make a contribution of any size, click here.

Through it all, Dee and thousands of moms like her are truly the heartbeat of America.

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A Time to Plant

Posted May 11, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

As the wind whirled and the skies turned dark in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri, farmers worked feverishly to plow up the fallow ground the harsh winter left behind. It’s planting season in the farm country of our nation. I have to say I’ve not yet met a lady farmer, only men of few words. It seems they silently communicate with the soil, the seeds and the nutrients and have no need to utter words out loud. Getting them to talk is like trying to blast a stubborn stump out of the middle of the field.  

I met Mark in a seed store next to a truck stop. He’s a seventh generation farmer. Didn’t even know they existed. All he’s ever done was plant and harvest. Strong as an ox yet shy as a school boy, Mark wore leather skin marred by years of exposure to summer sun. He’s seen tornadoes run a hundred miles across the horizon, and watched as hail the size of baseballs beat his crops to the ground.

He’s also watched as thirsty plants withered, cracked and dried from drought. 

Mark is a principled man. He’s up before daylight and works until sunset during farming season. And, just like Jud the miner, he just does NOT complain. Things go wrong. They always will. Yet rather than ranting and raving–or calling the media–Mark just calmly solves the problem and moves on with what he does. He’s a farmer and that’s what farmers do.

I felt compelled to ask him what he would say to America if he had the chance. This is what he said:

Get back to being American. Americans don’t hurt each other. Americans don’t kill each other. They don’t hire greedy lawyers hell bent on getting rich at our expense. Americans work hard for a living. Americans respect the flag, they respect authority and each other. We don’t go sticking our noses in other people’s business and we don’t go looking for trouble.” He shook his head and finally added, “We need to be America again.

Such profound words for someone who’d spoken so few during our encounter. His eyes glistened as he spoke of the America he loves and he feels the full weight of what he sees happening in our great nation. Mark spoke from his own heart but echoed the heartfelt cry of all true Americans. 

As I drove away I was once again reassured that the heartbeat of America is alive and well in the heartland. I was also challenged to make sure I’m plowing up the fallow ground of my soul and planting seeds that will one day yield a bountiful harvest. Today in my heart and America, it is indeed a time to plant.

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Out of the Depths of the Earth

Posted May 9, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

On a misty morning in the hills of Kentucky, a door opened on a shack in the middle of a field. A human raccoon appeared in the doorway, the whites of his eyes the only thing that wasn’t black. Jud had worked the hoot owl shift in the coal mine, one that supplied the rock necessary to make all the charcoal we use on our grills during cookouts.

As he emerged from the mine elevator, the look on Jud’s face was familiar, the same one I have at the end of a long driving day. He was tired, yet strangely satisfied that he’d put in a hard day’s work. Jud is a fourth generation coal miner. “Born to mine” he said. “I feel more at home in the earth’s belly than topside.”

I tried unsuccessfully to imagine what it would be like working in complete darkness. Coal does not reflect light.  The only light he has is the one on his hardhat. The air is thin and filled with particles of coal. They stick to his lungs with every breath. And yet, day after day for decades he descends into the bowels of our planet and harvests trinkets of black diamonds. 

I asked Jud if anyone had ever thanked him for what he does. He looked at me as if I’d lost my marbles for even suggesting that someone should. He’s a humble man, yet tough as the coal he mines. He doesn’t complain about the working conditions. He’s grateful for the job he has. It’s put food on his table, clothes on his back and provided for two children to go to college. 

He’s not a man of many words and it didn’t take long for him to run out of them. I shook his hand, knowing I’d just felt the heartbeat of America. I didn’t care that I got coal dust on my hand from the exchange. After all, Jud did leave a lasting impression. 

I thought about my chance encounter with Jud for a long time. He’s what America is made of. He’s what we need more of. Knowing he’s down below bringing up coal, I’m reinvigorated by the truth that even in 2015, the heartbeat of America is alive and well.

 

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Ladies of the Evening, Children of the Light

Posted May 6, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Two nights in a row.
Two Prostitudes.
Two southern towns.
Two souls saved.

Just when I thought my friend, Brandilyn Collins’ “Pitchin’ a Fit” is just a great read, something happened.

One night it was “Miz Sexy” in Montgomery, Alabama. The next night it was “Blue Satin” in Hot-lanta. Each of them knocked on the door to my truck hoping I’d purchase her services. The trucking industry calls them lot lizards. I call the lost souls so rather than shooing them away, I hopped out of my truck and struck up a conversation.

They both lived rough lives and had basically been on there own for a LONG time. Not bad gals at all. Just misguided and in life situations where they had to rely on their own survival instincts. I didn’t have Bibles but as it turned out, they most likely would have not been receptive. But I handed them each  a copy of the humorous book written by my friend. Brandilyn had just sent me some copies.

Rain dampened their, umm, business so they had some down time. The next morning a very strange thing happened.

On two consecutive mornings, each of these women knocked on my door a second time. At first I thought they were still working and just didn’t remember that I wasn’t buying. But, I saw tears in each of their eyes. Each of them had read Brandilyn’s book (or at least part of it) overnight.

They said they soooo identified wtih the feelings portrayed and asked me if I could help them. I was able to lead each of them to The Lord and point them in a Godly direction.

Each of them clutched that paperback like it was a brick of gold. The books were damp from the rain and were already showing what would soon become dog ears. Their countenance had changed. It glowed somehow as if they’d been washed clean. I saw hope in their eyes, something boldly absent the nights before.

I’d be foolish to think that would be the end of the story. It would be so easy for them to go back to their business as soon as the kiddie ran low. So I contacted local street ministries in each town and told them what had happened. Each agreed to follow up with them.

Today on the streets of Montgomery and Atlanta, there are two woman. I met them as ladies of the evening, selling their bodies for supper money. I left them as children of the light, filled with hope of a better life… eternal life forged by a God who created them and loves them.

Doesn’t get much better than that. 

Get Brandilyn Collins’ book “Pitchin’ a Fit” here

 

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Ice Cream Man

Posted May 5, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Last Sunday as I picked up a load of frozen food in downtown Chicago, the unmistakable and unique sound of a bicycle bell blew in with the strong winds. I followed that sound around the corner of the building thinking I’d see a little girl on a pink bike. Instead, I found an ice cream vendor. Vladamir is a Russian immigrant. He and his family were granted exit visas and came to our great nation in search of that better life many of us take for granted. 

Day after day, Vladamir pedals his three wheeled bicycle around the streets of downtown Chicago ringing his bell. Over a hundred people each day flock to his bike to buy the ice cream he keeps frozen in the freezer. He says he makes more money in a week selling ice cream on three wheels than he made in a year back in his home country.

Vladamir is an entrepreneur. He saved money from his ice cream sales and bought a bicycle taxi. This custom built bike can carry two or three people around the streets of Chicago, all by his strong legs. They see the sights and he lives his dream of being in America. So, while his daughters attend dance class and his son baseball practice, Vladamir sells frozen novelties during the day and chauffeurs sightseers around by night.

I watched as a dozen kids ran to his bike. He knew each of them, their favorite ice cream and had it ready for them as they stepped up. He spoke to parents and clearly had long since earned their respect. They trusted him with their children and their treats. 

I asked Vladamir what his greatest dream is. He said it was once to come to America. Now that he has done that, his new dream is to become an American citizen. “I would never dream of anything else in my entire life,” he said, “because if I become American citizen, then I will have everything.”

Since I’m a cyclist, I was fascinated by his contraption so I asked him if I could ride it to see what it was like. He agreed and I lugged about fifty yards before stopping. No granny gears like my fancy custom built touring bike. This bike had one gear: TOUGH! Yet this pedal pusher never complained. He just pushed one over the other in search for customers. I felt embarrassed and a bit ashamed that I’d even wanted to utter thoughts of my discomfort. 

Hard work. Sweat. Toil. And all of it with a smile. I have no doubt he will be successful. Life is good and the heartbeat of America is alive and well in the windy city!

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I’ve Missed You

Posted May 4, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I haven’t blogged about my adventures around our great nation for two months. It hasn’t been because there have been no adventures. As I’ve reported all along, the heartbeat of America is still very much alive and well. I got another brand new truck and it took two months to have a special motor installed to help use electrical devices on the truck. Until I got that (last week), It was very challenging to charge up and use my computer.

Now that I have “go juice” again, the blogging resumes. Thank you for your patience. You all are amazing. I’ve gotten so many emails, calls, texts from you wondering about me. You’re the greatest followers a blogger could ever ask for.

Since I blogged last, I’ve traveled over 20,000 miles and covered the four corners of America. I’ve seen snow and sprouting buds of dogwood trees in the same day. I watched the blood moon lunar eclypse over the blue grass hills of Kentucky. I watched as our land awoke from a long winter sleep.

The news reports the turbulent times we live in. What they don’t report is that in spite of it all, America is picking itself up by the bootstraps and living life to its fullest. Total strangers are reaching out to help others. Thousands of individuals are paying it forward because someone helped them.

America. How I love the sound of that word and what it means. I’m so proud to be an American. The more I run up and down the highways and biways of our great nation, the more I appreciate what I have in our country. And the less I take it for granted. Yesterday in downtown Chicago I saw a man pedaling his bicycle selling ice cream out of an ice box on the front. In the farm lands I watched as farmers plowed fields to ready them to plant our nation’s food. In Kentucky I saw dirty faces emerge from the coal mines outside one of the largest makers of charcoal.

In Arkansas a trucker sat at a chicken plant doing homework as he inched toward a PhD in education.  In Pennsylvania an Amish couple plodded along the roadway in their black horse drawn buggy. In Kansas, Hispanic Americans found a better life for them and their families and fled their former homelands.

Life is filled with tragedy. True enough, but it is also filled with wonder, adventure, splendor, joy, humor. It is filled with the most amazing trinkets of truth and wisdom. It’s all around us. All we have to do is open our eyes and see. Open our hearts and feel. The heartbeat of America… it’s alive and well.

God bless America!

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Whatever It Takes

Posted March 5, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I crowded around the counter with a dozen other drivers at a local hangout. After ordering my dinner, Melanie the server told me she was leaving. My momentary sadness that she’d no longer bring me my Diet Pepsi without my asking for it was replaced by my natural curiosity about what her next adventure would be.

Between customers she explained that she has a masters degree but when her job was eliminated and she had little ones at home to feed, she began waiting tables and pouring up beer on tap for tips.

Her temporary measure lasted for two years but she’d finally landed a job back in her field: Education. Had she not told me, I would have never known she’d fallen on hard times. It never showed. Not once. She just brought my chips and salsa, laughed at my goofy jokes and was an all- around pleasant gal. 

Last year, between the Road to Freedom Tour and my trucking adventure, I spent a few months helping out at a Lifeway Christian Store. One of my coworkers also has a masters degree. And two children. And, because of some sort of strange illness, a suddenly legally blind husband. She’s a social worker licensed in another state. Unfortunately, she had to wait to get her license in her current state so she had to take a job earning minimum wage in a bookstore. It had to be agonizing, yet it never once showed. She was always pleasant, upbeat, and could always be found encouraging others. She decided that, whatever it takes, I’ll take care of my family.

America is full of individuals just like these two ladies. They are working at jobs they are grossly overqualified for, earning far less than they should be just to care for their families. America is like that right now but the spirit of our great nation is persevering. They don’t complain. They don’t put on a sad face. Americans just get up, walk to work if need be, sling hash or flip the burgers because the are doing whatever it takes to keep their lives afloat.

That’s the American spirit. We do whatever it takes to keep going. We dream. We pursue. Life happens. We do whatever it takes to meet the needs while keeping the dream alive. Melanie made drinks and served jalapeno poppers to unappreciative people. The social worker arranged trinkets on glass shelves and scanned items for purchase. The law school graduate who’s father broke his leg came back home and took a job driving a septic tank evacuation truck. The engineer climbed up in the cab of an eighteen wheeler, leaving his family for weeks at a time.

It’s the American way. We’ll do whatever it takes to not only survive, but to thrive. As long as there is a heartbeat, there is hope and the heartbeat of America is alive and well. 

 

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Knock and It Shall Be Opened

Posted February 28, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I had just settled into my bunk to relax with a movie when there was a knock on my door. Thinking it could be a fellow driver in need, I pulled back my curtains only to find a pregnant woman, her husband and their dog. The young lady looked very surprised to see a woman in the truck.

I lowered my window to hear what she said.

“Ma’am, is was wondering you could spare some change so we can get something to eat. We haven’t eaten in a couple of days and we’re really hungry.”

I studied them both for a moment, then offered, “I won’t give you any money but if you’re really hungry as you say you are, I’ll be glad to take you both inside and buy you food.”

Relief washed over her face and she quickly accepted. 

I got out and as we walked into the Walmart where I was parked, she explained that they’d come here hoping for a new start on the advice of a friend. Once they got here, their friend abandoned them and they had no place to go, no job, no money.

I bought them sandwiches at the Subway and some meat for their dog. I also told them they could get out of their circumstances. There really was hope and I did my best to convey it to them. When I left, I prayed that I had gotten through to them and that our encounter had given them the courage to try.

The next morning I heard a commotion outside and pulled back my curtains. The same couple stood outside the truck next to me. I instantly thought they were begging again. Perhaps that was all they did and I’d been duped the night before. But when the young woman saw me poke my head out, here eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. 

“I’m so glad to see you! I wanted to let you know I took your advice yesterday. I went out and applied for a job and they hired me right then and there. I start today!”

Hooray! Congratulations!”

“There’s just one thing…”

“What’s that?” 

“I need bus money. Do you think you could spare some change so I can ride the bus to work? If you’re going to be here when I get paid, I promise I’ll pay you back.”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out all the change I had. It was enough to get her to and from work for a couple of days.

“Don’t bother paying it back. Pay it forward, first by excelling at this new job, then by giving to others in need. Don’t ever forget where you came from. If you do that, it will be payment enough.”

She erupted into tearful laughter, took the money and off she went to begin her new life.

As she disappeared around the corner, I offered thanks that God had provided a job for her. I believe she will do well. She’s not a deadbeat. Truly, she was just down and out… and six months pregnant. It proves that a person can get back up again each time they fall. 

In the day and time we live in, anyone can fall on hard times. Intelligent, well-meaning, hard working folks can find themselves out of a job. I know it was demeaning for her to ask for money but hungry people do desperate things. 

No matter where we think we are in life, status or accomplishment, we are just one withholding of God’s extended grace away from being right where this woman was. Except for God’s grace, I could have been looking in the mirror. 

I’m so thankful that I opened the curtain and answered the knock on the door. I’m so glad that God never leaves us or forsakes us, even when we’re down. He’s always working on our behalf and He will make a way where there seems to be no way. 

Knock on doors. They will open. Seek and you will find. It’s not over until God says it is.

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Driven by What’s Inside

Posted February 19, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Those who follow my blog know I write stories of amazing people who do extraordinary things as part of their daily life. Today is not different. That being said, I feel I must set this story up just a bit. 

A friend, mentor and fellow trucker, Dee Sova, recently posted a picture on Facebook of a sign at a Walmart that read, “No Semis allowed.” This was a new occurrence since, if space permits, Walmart is very truck friendly. They allow truckers to park their rigs in their lots, get rest, replenish their supplies and head on down the road. 

When asked, the management of this Walmart said their customers were very frightened by all the trucker characters who filled the parking lots. Having met now thousands of truck drivers, this saddens me because my experience is that the majority of truck drivers are kind, courteous, hard working Americans.

And, in the year 2015, you’d be surprised at who is behind the wheel.

Take me for example. I have a PhD, have been very successful in corporate America and have long since earned the respect of my peers in my previous industry. I’m doing this because it’s an adventure and because I can. Sound dangerous to you?

Then there’s Dr. Randy (not his real name). He possesses a PhD and worked for decades as a aerospace engineer for NASA. When the space shuttle program was grounded, he was… ummm, outsourced. He had a family to provide for and the only job he could find to pay the bills was trucking. No welfare for him. He’s driving (and parking in Walmart parking lots) to be the head of his household. He probably won’t kill anyone as they walk through the lot.

And what about Dee? Well, when she’s not driving or endangering those customers’ lives by parking in the lot, she’s speaking to groups of people all over the country, telling them the importance of not drinking and driving. Her daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Oh yeah, Dee’s a real scary person!

Let’s not forget Dave, who risked his own life on the infamous Cabbage Patch in the middle of the night when another driver’s brakes caught on fire. First, he stopped the driver who did not see his own flames. Then he pulled over and helped him put out the fire. Yeah, the world is a better place by keeping him out of that parking lot.

Here’s my point. Truck drivers are some of the most incredible, responsible, patriotic, hard working Americans I’ve met. They drive night or day, cross country or through LA to get the goods into the stores. When the storms rage, they drive through them and more times than not, they deliver on time. They are seldom thanked, often discriminated against, treated unjustly and yet you rarely hear them complain. They just take all in stride and keep on trucking.

People are people and what makes them good or bad is not whether or not they sit behind the wheel of a big rig. Driving an eighteen wheeler doesn’t make them a criminal any more than wearing black leathers and driving a Harley makes someone an Outlaw gang member. 

We are Americans and true Americans do whatever they must in order to care for their families. Americans are driven by what’s inside- a compelling to earn an honest living. Driving a truck is an honorable and noble profession that I am proud to be a part of. When I’m out on the open road hauling goods from one place to the other, I feel so patriotic. I’m doing my part at keeping the heartbeat of America alive and well. 

I’m proud to be an American. I’m proud to be a trucker. I’m proud to live in a country where I have the freedom to live a life of adventure. Judge me if they must. Drive me out of their parking lots if they can but I’ll still have the satisfaction knowing that when they get inside, everything they buy was delivered by one of my brothers or sisters who took to the open road to keep this great nation going.

The Heartbeat of America remains alive and well. 

 

 

 

 

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Unexpected Blessings

Posted February 13, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I mumbled and grumbled as I broke through the ice at our terminal while hooking up my trailer. Not only was I going to have to run overnight (which I HATE), but now I was going to have to do it with cold, wet feet. And my entire run was less than a hundred miles. To a trucker who gets paid by the mile… well, you get the picture.

I headed out and began my trek up the mountain. The freezing rain and sleet from the day was evident on the roads but they were passable. Then it began to snow. I was trying as hard as I could to maintain a positive attitude. I tuned my satellite radio to Joel Osteen. I sang joyful songs. I thought happy thoughts. 

Then my trainer called. He was driving the late shift and was either calling to check on me or to gloat the fact that he was in sixty degree weather in Texas. As we talked about things I can’t even remember, the snowfall became worse. In fact, it was the heaviest I’d ever been in. And, it was quickly accumulating on the road surface. The only way I could tell where my truck was positioned was by riding the rumble strip.

As snowflakes the size of Susan B. Anthony dollars rapidly rained down, I descended a hill to a bridge. At that moment, Mr. Super Trucker decided to fly down that same hill and pass me at 77 MPH. He couldn’t tell where the lanes were either. He hit the bridge. Fortunately, he did not hit me.

A mile up the road, another trucker had spun out and sat jackknifed on the entrance ramp. Just then, out of the darkness appeared a Sunoco sign. Even though I couldn’t see it, I knew I’d made it to a Service Plaza. Now if I could just find the exit ramp. 

There were no tire tracks to follow. I crept my way through five inches of virgin snow around a sharp curve and into the truck parking lot. There was one space available and it happened to be right in front of me. I pulled in and shut down.

After notifying the night dispatcher where I was shutting down and why, I realized that the severe snowfall was actually a blessing in disguise. I drove only twenty-eight miles. Since I had to shut down, I would no longer be running through the night. I could hop in my sleeper berth and get a good night’s sleep.

It had been snowing when I left our terminal but just flurries. The fog had rolled in but I had fog lights on my truck. And my Ariat boots would eventually dry out… wouldn’t they? I was willing to do the thing I hate just because it was my job. Take one for the Gipper. But God had other plans.

The next morning as I slushed through the eight total inches of snow in the parking lot of the service plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I was grateful to be well rested and ready to face whatever the day had to bring. I felt the weight of how much God cares about the little things in our lives, even not wanting to drive through the night.

Even on a cold, dark night in the mountains of Pennsylvania, God sent an unexpected blessing disguised as whiteout snow conditions. It brought to the forefront of my mind that blessings sometimes appear in our lives as the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m so glad I had eyes to see God’s hand working in my situation.

What have you been faced with lately? Does it seem overwhelming? Could it be that God is orchestrating it so you can receive a greater blessing? Share your story here!

 

 

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