The Apacalypse, Days 3 and 4

Posted January 23, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Springville, Utah to Twin Falls, Idaho

When I awoke, night still blanketed the horizon just outside Provo. The mountains in the distance were covered in a blanket of virgin white snow. Mother Nature had also left the gift of two feet of snow on my truck during the night. I have to say the mountain looked better than my truck.

I slipped and slid into the truck stop and began asking truckers about road conditions. Most of them—including dozens of seasoned drivers—had not ventured out yet. Fear in the eyes of those who had confirmed what I already knew in my heart… roads were bad.

Because I had crept along the day before, I was even more behind schedule so my fleet manager began looking for a team to take it the rest of the way to Washington. I was fifty miles from my Salt Lake City terminal. Surely, I’d be able to get the load that far.

Reports were two feet of snow on Interstate 15 and the plows had stopped trying to keep up. They would resume at four. So I walked back to my truck and waited. And waited. At six I went back into the truck stop and asked questions again. Roads were still bad and now there were seventeen reported accidents between where I was and Salt Lake City. There was a two mile back up just to get onto the interstate at my exit.

I passed the time shoveling the snow off my truck. When I felt that rush hour had passed, I pulled out. At the corner, cars were getting stuck in the snow. I swung left and headed up the hill toward the entrance to the interstate. The traffic suddenly stopped. On ice. I slowed down and tried desperately to not come to a stop. I could not afford to slide backwards into a car.

The light finally changed and traffic moved before I had to stop. Cars were slipping in the ice and snow. Trucks and larger vehicles tossed the frozen slush into windshields, blinding drivers. Traffic was stop and go. Mostly, stop and wait for emergency vehicles to pick their way through the sea of stopped cars to ones that had been involved in accidents.

I crept toward the exit I would need to take to go to the terminal. The excitement I’d felt at the possibility of having another truck take this load farther into the frozen tundra broke through the ice when my fleet manager told me to keep rolling. No team nearby. He would try to find a team farther up the road.

He asked me to stop in Twin Falls, Idaho. Surely, he’d find someone by then. So onward I slid. The roads improved slightly between Salt Lake City and the Idaho border but as soon as I crossed the state line, conditions deteriorated quickly. I flipped on my four-wheel-drive and slowly picked my way between black ice, two feet of slush and steep drop offs on the rolling hills.

The landscape disappeared as I drove the last forty miles in a white out. Again. The weigh station in Burley, Idaho was open despite the conditions and all trucks are called into that station. When I rolled across the scales, I got the electronic message to park and bring in my paperwork. That’s never a good sign. I grabbed my stuff and headed inside. The officer checked my declared weight on my paperwork and concluded that I was overweight because my truck had collected ice from the road. But overweight is overweight, no matter what the reason and I was busted. I stood there in silence waiting for him to write my ticket, realizing I would be several hundred dollars out of pocket because of the ice I’d grown to HATE.

Surprisingly, he let me go with the warning that I would be ticketed in Boise if the problem was not corrected before then. I scooped up all my paperwork and headed out the door, grateful that I’d just been extended mercy. Unless there was an unexpected spring thaw overnight, I figured I was just prolonging the agony. But I was still grateful all the same.

The next day conditions were so bad, the roads closed in the westbound direction. Eight feet of snow dumped on and around my truck, effectively burying it. A few trucks were coming through the fuel isle, getting stuck, having to get help to get out. One truck got stuck right in front of me, so I dug myself out of my own igloo and trudged through the snow to help him. The driver behind him became impatient and tried to pass him. He got stuck as well.

A fourth driver walked up and we all worked together to get the trucks unstuck. It was fifteen below and snowing. We all stopped installing chains and looked up as another driver approached. His question would have been comical if we hadn’t been frozen.

“Do you think you could move your trucks somewhere else to put your chains on? You’re blocking the exit, and we need to get out.” He spoke with a very thick accent, which seemed to anger the driver who was laying on the frozen snow. But the four of us who’d been up to our elbows in snow and ice for the better part of an hour all successfully resisted the urge to kill the guy. And, when we suggested he lend us a hand, he excused himself and ran back to the comfort of his nice, warm un-stuck truck. Apparently he’d never heard that we’re all in this together and we should help each other.

The two trucks finally grabbed some traction and away they went. I returned to my igloo and tried not to think of the HUGE job I would face in the morning digging my seventy- three foot long truck out of six feet of snow before I could move an inch. I had no idea how things could possibly get worse but I would soon find out.

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The Apocalypse, Day 2

Posted January 19, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Moriarty, New Mexico to Springville, Utah

 

The day started at two in the morning. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t sleeping anyway. High winds had rocked my truck for hours. Each time I mustered the courage to peak outside the curtain, snow and sleet swirled and pummeled my metal cocoon.

The roads were clear so I rolled out through the darkness. After an hour of rolling hills, I turned north in Gallup and made my way north. Four hours later the morning hinted to the east as I cut a path through the remoteness of the Navajo Nation. Wild ponies ran along the horizon on both sides of the road, their manes blowing as free as their spirits. Not as many as the last time I came through. Perhaps they don’t care for the snow either.

I stopped at Ute Mountain for a break and was met by frigid air the second I stepped outside. The gigantic rock was shrouded in snow and the early morning sky cast a blue hue onto the freshly fallen snow. I could almost hear the cries of the Native ancestors calling down from the summit, telling stories of the days of long ago.

I always hate to leave the mountain but I reluctantly climbed back into my truck and continued my trek to the northwest.  Ice covered the road in patches and I was grateful I could now see the road. I could navigate around the dangerous areas without losing much time.

I sliced through the southwest corner of Colorado without much incident. But just on cue, Utah skies opened up and snowed down quarter sized flakes. Lots of them. Within moments, I could not see where the road pavement began or ended. No other cars were out. I could not follow in their tracks. I followed my GPS lines to alert me curves were coming up and crept along. At least I was making forward progress, something any snail would be proud of.

I crossed I-70 and headed toward Moab. The two-lane windy road was steep in some parts… the places where I needed the roads to be clear. But ice in turns and at the bottom of hills seemed to be my lot and I chose to endure it with dignity.

By the time I passed the coal mine north of Moab, I inched along in whiteout conditions. I tried to decide if I was better or worse off now that there were significantly more travelers out on the road. The canyons haunted me, a constant reminder that one wrong move and I would be swallowed up by the unforgiving landscape in southern Utah.

My DOT clock clicked off much faster than I could click off miles and unfortunately, there were far too many miles left at the end of my allowable drive time, forcing me to shut down for the night. I slid around in the truck stop parking lot on a solid sheet of ice and backed into a spot I would be able to pull straight out of to the exit when the morning came.

I’d been eating out of plastic bags for a couple of days and desperately needed a good meal. Cracker Barrel was just a half mile away over two feet of snow, one busy and slippery intersection and another hundred yards of icy slush. So I braved it and hiked over to grab some real grub. I almost did not mind falling twice in the snow.

I’d made it through white out conditions and was feeling especially proud of myself. Maybe I really could handle this winter driving in the northwest. With a full belly and a grateful heart that I was safe and secure, somewhere during a movie I can no longer remember the name of, I drifted off into sleep and put the period at the end of a very long and stressful day of snow driving.  

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The Apocalypse, Day One

Posted January 11, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Day One

Cherokee, Oklahoma to Moriarty, New Mexico

(This is part one of a ten-day trucking trip through the worst winter conditions I’d ever faced. Be sure to come back for the other nine days!)

It was supposed to be an easy trip. Pick up a preloaded trailer of chicken and run it up to Grandview, Washington. Between storms. I’d be in and out before the next one hit with thousands in my pocket and several days with 2016 disappearing further into my rearview mirror.

All hopes of the new year exploding on my scene were dashed at 2am. No fireworks. No Aud Lang Syne. Instead, the new year crepted in as freezing fog, its long fingers entangling me while it engulfed my truck like tomb. Little did I know it was only a prelude of things to come.

I inched along and made my way west. After all, I did have a delivery appointment, not to mention a very short window to grab a load and escape the storm. The fog turned to rain… then sleet. I had to assume the icy mix was covering the road the same way it was slathering my windshield.

I passed car after car that had spun out into the median or onto the side of the road. Some had overturned. Trucks were rolled over onto their sides or tops, their trailers oozing precious cargo.

It’s unnerving to drive through was resembles a war zone, especially under the cover of darkness.  I couldn’t help but wonder about those drivers, their families and whether they made it home to them in one piece, despite the metal carnage that sculpted the story on the highway.

The sun finally rose. The fog lifted. Oklahoma disappeared into Texas and the Lonestar State eventually yielded to the painted desert of New Mexico. I puttered along barely making it up hills. I was within a few pounds of being overweight. If I took on more than twenty five gallons of fuel at a time, I could not legally drive on any road in America. So I stopped often to get my little bit of petro, a very time consuming task.

By the time I stopped for the day in Moriarty, New Mexico, I was already exhausted and behind schedule. Tomorrow I would start up into the lower Rockies and I knew I would not make good time at all. There was nothing I could do, so I got ready for bed and settled down for the night.

Suddenly, I received an alarm. My refrigerated unit (Reefer) on my trailer had shut down. The chicken was going to melt. I got dressed and jammed my bare feet into my boots. Quickly lacing them, I grabbed a flashlight and bolted out of the truck, hardly noticing that it had begun to snow. For the next thirty minutes, I troubleshot. I ran through scenario after scenario. My heart sank when I finally discovered the cause of the problem. When the chicken plant loaded and sealed the trailer, they had not hooked one of the doors. It was my responsibility to check that and I had just missed it during my inspection.

Fortunately, the alarm was overridden remotely by computer and we got the refrigerator running again. My company decided to not unseal the trailer in order to close the door because the load was intact even with the door slightly ajar at the top. But, I would be paying about $30 a day in fuel just to keep it running this way. It was a very costly mistake on my part. One doesn’t make that mistake very often. 

Two hours later, my head hit the pillow again, though rest would not come. My mind vacillated between the open door I’d bundled, and the fact that I was behind schedule, and closer to not being able to get back out of Washington.

I prayed and somewhere in the darkness my troubled soul yielded to the Sandman.

(Be sure to  come back to see part 2 of the Apocalypse.)

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The Road Less Traveled

Posted December 29, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

You have followed me for the last three years that I’ve taken the road less traveled, first on the Road to Freedom bicycle tour, then from behind the wheel of a BIG rig. Many of you have wondered how I can do it. Most of you ask why I do what I do. So, as we get ready to put the period at the end of 2016 and open a new chapter, I thought it would be a good time to tell you.

I’m not normal. Never have been. I’m a tomboy, don’t like girly things and conformity makes me feel like I’m in prison. I worked for decades in Corporate America with big companies like Merrill Lynch and AT&T. I had the house, the sports car and—at least according to most people—I was very successful.

There was just one problem. I was horribly unhappy. Depressed even. I felt I had no purpose and generally hated life. I also felt like I was terminally ill. Each and every day I literally felt like I was dying.

As it turns out, I’m not cut out to be like most people. Putting me in a business suit and sitting me in an office all day is like putting a hamster on a wheel. Know what’s funny? I was good at it. Really good! But I learned the hard way you can be good at a lot of things you are never meant to do.

I have a doctorate degree in clinical counseling. I have been very well respected in my field on a national level and yet, I drive a truck. Sounds like a horrible lack of ambition and a waste of talent, right? At least that’s what former friends and colleagues told me.

But I came to realize my lot in life is to take the road less traveled. Not have a home with kids, two dogs and a white picket fence. No, I’m destined to experience hooking to a trailer in  negative 23 degree weather and 40 mph winds at 2am in Nebraska. I feel it in every ounce of my being. The piercing, cutting blade of cold that slices through you. And my job is to tell you about it so you can experience it without getting frostbite.

My place in this world is on that road less traveled and bring the stories back to you. My purpose is to experience the sunset in the painted desert in New Mexico and tell you it really does exist by painting the portrait for you with words. It is to tell you about a lone wolf on the Navajo Nation that felt it needed to protect me from wild animals and to bring the Nation’s wild ponies to your back yard.

For many of you, the only way you will experience the Mojave Desert is through my words. You will only meet Kevin the war veteran by reading my blog. You wouldn’t know December 22nd was two minutes longer than the day before. You would have no idea that our country is filled with great Americans who are the fabric upon which our nation is built.

No, I won’t be attending any fancy parties all gussied up or spending the day at the mall. You won’t find me in a cubicle or mahogany office in a high-rise business complex. If you’re looking for me, you’ll have to come down the road less traveled. It’s where I belong. That’s my white picket fence. 

I took some time off from blogging for several reasons. All the while, the Heartbeat of America has continued to beat and I have many, many stories to tell you. I will resume the blog in the new year.

Thank you for following my journey and for appreciating that I have taken the road less traveled.

From my road to your house, I wish you a very happy new year. May you be exactly where you were destined to be, doing what God created you to do.

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They Call Her Coach

Posted August 9, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

In an unexpected place somewhere in the rolling hills of southwest Tennessee, there is a coach. She stands in the shadow of the late great Pat Summit. Unlike the former coach of the lady Tennessee Volunteers basketball legacy, this local coach goes mostly unnoticed. She’s up before the sun and many times returns home after darkness descends. Teacher by day, she takes on the challenge of helping failing high school students in a poor county pass who are otherwise in danger of failing out.

After the long and demanding day, while other educators are going home, this teacher jumps into her car and drives across the county to another school, transforming into a coach along the way. Working tirelessly, she molds and shapes local girls into skilled athletes who might just capture the attention of college coaches.

Many of these young girls lack the upbringing that would propel them to success. More days than not, this coach runs through the drive thru and brings them the only meal they have for the day. If they don’t have equipment, she buys it with her own money as well.

She convinces these girls they are winners when everything in their individual world screams they are worthless losers and will never amount to anything. She teaches them teamwork, integrity, and the value of doing what’s right.

On game day, no matter what the score is when the clock winds down, these girls are winners. Thanks to a lady who has lived her entire life in this county, they now have life skills they never would have developed had she not taken the time to instill them within these underprivileged girls.

Many of her players have gone on to play college ball on scholarships that purchased their tickets out of poverty and into a successful life. She coaches in a no nonsense, earn your own way, all or nothing style. Girls have to earn their spot on the team by intense hard work. Once they are on the team, they have to work even harder to keep their spot.

Some don’t agree with coach’s style. They say she’s too strict. Her friends call her crazy for giving up her time and hard earned pennies on a teacher’s salary to ensure the success of these young athletes. But where the ball meets the court, girls are the only ones who matter. And at the end of tiring workouts or a hard fought game, know what they call her? They call her Coach.

When the last basket is made and the balls are put back into the closet, this unsung hero quietly retreats back into the shadows while a few girls from poor families walk a little taller. Armed with more than dribbling skills, they approach life armed with a new wisdom, a greater understanding of what possibilities await them if they will continue practicing the skills Coach taught them.

You won’t find this coach on ESPN. Or on the cover of Sports Illustrated. You’ll find her off the beaten path on the backroads of rural Tennessee doing what has earned her the right to be called Coach.

My hat’s off to you. May God grant you wisdom and endurance to continue to mold future women of America into successes, one dribble at a time.

 

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Out There…Somewhere

Posted May 25, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

On Saturday, April 9th, I turned in Dusty (my Freightliner Cascadia truck) and walked away to start my new adventure, whatever that would turn out to be. I spent two nights in Memphis and my good friend, Mary, posed this question, “If you could do anything you wanted, what would that be?”

My answer was immediate and laser focused. “I’d drive around the country in an RV, meet wonderful Americans and write their stories.”

That night I continued to ponder how I could make that come to fruition. I figured that over the next two to three years, I had two choices. I could try to write a grant to pay for the adventure. That could be tricky. Not every organization would consider my adventure research worth pursuing. I could try to get sponsors but then I would be on their agenda, not mine.

On Sunday afternoon while shopping for a new pair of running shoes, I told Mary I felt I needed to become an independent contractor with a trucking company I’d already been talking to for several months. At first she looked at me strangely, like perhaps I’d had a brain bleed. After all, I’d insisted the night before my trucking adventure had drawn to a close. But then I explained to her that in two to three years, I would have enough disposable funds to pay cash for a brand new small RV. That way, I could do what I want on my own time with my own agenda.

I went on to explain that as an independent contractor for this new company, I would be wholly autonomous. I would not have a dispatcher. Instead, I’d log right onto the load board and get whatever loads I wanted to book myself for. I’d be able to go where I like to travel, and avoid those places I don’t think I should be.

I would be completely in charge of my own schedule. I can travel, meet people and be more available to write about them than before because I will no longer have pickup and delivery appointments at 2am.

So, after a great deal of prayer and counsel from my mentors, I joined this new company as an independent contractor. I report on Monday and will have a 2017 Freightliner Cascadia by Friday. I will give them 1095 days. During that time, I will travel around, meet wonderful people and tell you—my loyal readers—their stories. Once those days have ended, I will set into motion the next step.

When I was on the Road to Freedom bicycle tour in 2013, I discovered that contrary to what we hear on the news, the heartbeat of America is alive and well. There has never been a time in the history of our nation when we’ve needed to hear this message more. I feel it is my purpose to get this message out to you. This is the way I can make this happen.

Thank you all for being such faithful followers. I appreciate all the cards, emails, texts and phone calls of concern as I’ve taken a couple of months off to pray and hear God’s plan for me.

As I start this new part of my journey, I commit to seeking out wonderful Americans and bringing their stories to your email or social media accounts. I would also solicit your prayers as I release the brakes thunder down the road heading out there… somewhere.

God bless you, friends!

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Johnny the Hotdog Vendor

Posted April 25, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

If you spend much time in Memphis, you’ll find him standing by his little hot dog cart. You’ll recognize him by the infectious smile and gregarious demeanor. He plays with the kids and strikes up intelligent conversations with the adults. And he provides the most excellent customer service I’ve ever seen. Johnny the hotdog vendor looks as though he doesn’t have a care in the world.

“I just LOVE what I do!” He is emphatic about how much he enjoys selling hotdogs on the street. Five bucks will get you a dog, chips and ice cold canned soda. Not a bad deal. He doesn’t skimp on the products. Only the best, Nathan’s all-natural hotdogs will do for his customers. People wait in long lines for his combo and he sells out at every event. Last Saturday at an event at the downtown public library, I bought the last one for a homeless deaf man.

A closer look at Johnny’s life revealed he is happy by choice. A very bright man, he worked twenty years for the same company servicing and repairing x-ray equipment. One day his boss in this family owned business told him he would have to let him go to make room for a family member. Family came first, even in business. Johnny was left high and dry with a family to care for.

As was with many Americans during that time, he could not find a job that would keep him home with his family. So Johnny decided to create one. He took money out of their savings, bought a hotdog stand, licenses and supplies and set up on the street corners of Memphis. He’s been there ever since.

“I have the best job in the world! I get to meet all kinds of people every day. I deliver what people want. It makes them happy and that makes me happy. I work and take time off whenever I want. And, at a big event, I make two weeks salary at my old job in a single day.”

Johnny’s zest for life is infectious. He prepares each hotdog to order and, unlike the workers at the national chain fast food places who slop the ingredients on haphazardly, he places the condiments on the dogs with precision. No mess. No worry about dripping when you try to eat one. He really cares for his customers, the tie they’re wearing and makes sure they don’t spill mustard anywhere.

Five years ago, thousands of Americans were faced with suddenly being out of jobs. Many of them lost their homes, cars, families, health and wound up in desperate circumstances. Some did not survive. But Johnny is a shining example of the American spirit, that tenacity that finds a way where there seems to be none. When times were hard, he picked himself up by the bootstraps and instead of trying to follow the same road that got him in dire straits hoping it would change, he blazed his own trail.

Saturday as I stood in the distance devouring the best hotdog I’ve ever eaten—and normally I don’t eat them at all—my heart was filled with pride, and joy as I watched Johnny the hotdog vendor joyfully dispense fun and food. My heart was filled with peace knowing that as long as there are citizens like him, the heartbeat of America will continue to be alive and well.

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I’m Willie Shelton’s Daughter

Posted April 11, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

We rounded the corner of the old country road and the all familiar blue farm house came into view. Approaching the Shelton farm always draws me back to the Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour and meeting Willie Shelton for the first time.

Today though, I returned with one of his daughters, known to you only as Mary. We sat sharing a meal and like always, Mr. Shelton regaled us with his tales of serving in World War II. Recounting how he’d been wounded three times, his eyes grew distant, as though he was walking through the countryside in Europe.

A new part of the story suddenly emerged. Though wounded himself, he helped a fellow wounded soldier get to a place of safely out of the line of fire. Tears filled his eyes as he remembered the words the grateful young soldier said, “If you ever needed anything, I will gladly do it for you.”

I looked across the room through my own sea of tears only to see those same tears in his daughter’s eyes. But those revealing eyes also told so much more. They held admiration and gratitude. They proudly said, “I’m Willie Shelton’s Daughter.”

He never saw the man again. Eventually, Mr. Shelton came home to the rolling hills of southwestern Tennessee and raised a family on the farm. Mary and I walked through those rolling hills together that day. She pointed out the pond where they fished and the pasture where they rode horses. The rope they swung on from in the barn still hangs from the rafters decades later. But if you listen very closely, you’ll hear their laughter as it rides on the wings of the wind.

Mary is strong. Unshakable. Full of life and has a simple, yet cemented commitment to what she’s doing. She helps others even at her own peril and then just goes on to the next thing as if everyone does the exact same thing. I’ve watched it for years. Now, after meeting and getting to know Willie Shelton and the tower of strength and decency he is, I realize the acorn really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The more I know Mr. Shelton, the more I see him in my friend. Though small in stature, she stands as tall as the pines on the Tennessee mountains and has a presence that changes the room by just walking in it. In heart, she’s the spitting image of her daddy. Mr. Shelton’s legacy will live on in her long after he goes home to be with the Lord.

I marvel at the fabric Mr. Shelton wove into his children. They are all strong, just like him. He brought them up to live a simple life where people matter and lending a helping hand is as natural as eating watermelon in summer.

I’m grateful to know all of them and honored to witness the countless acts of human kindness in my friend that gives her the right to proudly say, “I’m Willie Shelton’s Daughter.”

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Walking in Memphis

Posted February 8, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I sat with anticipation staring out the window as we thundered toward metropolitan Memphis. We passed old stone and brick houses that I desperately wished could talk and tell me their amazing history.

At long last we turned into the ornate grounds of the Pink Palace. The enormous home and thousands of pink field stones stood tall among the winter bare branched trees. Its lavish décor makes it every bit the coveted location as when it was built in the 1920’s.

After memorializing it with snapshots from every side, wwee wound our way through surface streets, past the airport where hundreds of FedEx jets sat on the tarmac. The tails towered over the small row houses nearby. The old. The new. The historical. The technological, all dwelling together on a street in Memphis.

We turned onto US 51 and parked in what appeared to be a strip mall. It turned out to be the mecca for The King. People from near and far flock here to see and purchase all things Elvis. One of my friends went to the café to buy Elvis’ favorite sandwich—peanut butter and banana—while I inspected his bell bottomed sequined costumes and autographed guitars.

As I stood in the shops completely surrounded by Elvis, his music and his fans screaming on the video loop playing on large screen TV’s, I pondered how difficult it had to have been for him to live a normal life. Though he clearly loved entertaining audiences, he had to come to a point when he just wanted to be normal… perhaps even anonymous.

After getting all shook up by the memorabilia, we drove another block and found the place where Elvis lived… and died. I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought about when he walked the grounds after flying home from a concert in Lisa Marie, one of two private jets he owned. She sat on display across the street from the home.

Graceland stands as a shrine in Memphis, the only thing in the neighborhood that remained untouched by time. People walk the nearby streets, weighted down by the burdens of life, while streets, curbs and buildings are worn down by years of hard labor. Yet the home of Elvis, like the King himself, lives on seemingly unscathed and unforgotten.

I still had questions for Graceland but they would have to wait. It wasn’t talking and I had other places to see. A short drive to downtown and THE River brought us right to the entrance of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Unlike Graceland, the patients who come here are very much alive. And the professionals here are using every ounce of their energy, skill and knowledge to keep them that way. Just miles away from where people make the pilgrimage to honor and remember someone who died four decades before, people here make a different sort of trip. No private jet. No fans or fanfare. Just a quiet arrival with hope against hope that a cure will be found and they will grow up, go to the prom, have their first kiss, graduate high school, get married, have a family and live happily ever after. Some of them would settle for living just another day.

We wound our way past the tall buildings down to The River… the Mighty Mississippi. How I desperately longed for it to talk. To tell me its stories that wrote history in our great nation. The streets were as old as the buildings, each one luring me into their moments of old. None of them telling the stories.

Memphis is a magical place where history and modern times walk arm in arm. The soul of the city runs deep in the hearts of those who live here. She sings the blues and people listen with open hearts that change moment by moment as the music of the city permeates their being.

I never thought my life would change by a city I avoided for decades but I now understand what the songwriter meant when he wrote:

 

     Walking in Memphis

     I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale (Street)

     Walking in Memphis

     But do I really feel the way I feel?

I’ve been asking myself that same question since Saturday. Memphis, you’ve changed me. Lured me into your embrace. Accepted me as one of your own. My heart beats with a different song, one I haven’t quite named yet. The melody is still evolving. The harmony is yet to be heard. One day it will be set to music and I will have my own song… one that was written upon the tables of my heart while walking in Memphis.

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I Just Gotta Get Home

Posted January 27, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I rounded the corner and headed straight for the kiosk in the truck stop. It was morning. I had some time. I desperately needed a shower and was on a mission to wash me and my laundry.

A young man was sitting in a chair in the trucker’s lounge, the plastic bag at his feet appeared to be filled with various clothing. As I punched the touch screen to order my shower, I overheard him telling someone that he’d been dropped off at the truck stop and was trying to get someplace else.

I walked on by and headed straight for shower number two. That was the most important thing in my life today. My spa awaited and I was not going to let anything—or anybody—get in my way.

Or so I thought.

I washed my hair thinking about the young man on the other side of the door. I forgot all about the wonderful trail of hot water that ran down my body, my achy muscles and the coveted shower time.

Where was home? Why was he trying so desperately to get there right now?

I abandoned my shower, dried my hair in record time and ran out to find the young man. While I couldn’t offer him a ride, I did buy his breakfast in Huddle House. As he devoured steak and eggs, I probed for answers to the questions that haunted me.

He’d left his home outside of Laredo, TX, looking for a better way to send home to support his family. He wound up in Alaska working on a fishing boat. The money was great and he was able to care for his family in better way than he’d ever done before. But he was absent.

His six year old son was smitten with a chronic illness and they quickly went through their funds providing for his care. He took on additional work on the rare occasions when he was off but it still wasn’t enough. And his son continued to spiral downward.

He is now in the hospital and Hector abandoned his job to get home to be by his side. The only problem was he had no funds because he’d sent all his money home.

“I just gotta get home,” he continued to say. “My son needs his father.”

I asked him to wait at the table for a moment, excused myself and went to work. I called Greyhound and explained what was happening. I did not even know Hector’s last name but they said they were willing to hold a ticket at will call for him and hold it in only his first name until he could arrive and provide his identification.

I called a taxi and prepaid the fare from the truck stop to the bus station. I walked back to the table and told Hector what I’d done. The quiver in his lip turned into uncontrollable tears. Elbows on the table and head in hand, Hector released days—months—of frustration, fear and feelings that he’d let his family down.

As Hector hopped in the cab and it sped away to a bus that would take him home, I thought of how many Americans are in that same situation. They do the best they can to provide for their families during these tumultuous times and when tragedy strikes, they will do whatever it takes to get back to them. Hector is an example of how resilient Americans are. And resourceful. I have no doubt he would have walked back to Laredo for his boy if he’d had to. He would have climbed every mountain, crossed every stream and fought every foe for his son.

He’s an American. He is strong. He is capable. His heart beats for his family. That’s the true American way. God bless you, Hector. May you find peace and your son find healing.

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