The Cornbread Ain’t Ready

Posted October 31, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Cracker barrel 1My truck was in the shop and I was hungry so I walked to a nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant for some home cooking. I ordered my standard vegetable plate with corn bread and busied myself losing at their famous peg-in-the-hole game. 

Moments later Veronica, my waitress, plopped down my veggies and proclaimed, “The cornbread ain’t ready.” 

I laughed and made a comment about that being the story of my life. 

“Well, you DID come in a few minutes before we serve lunch.” She spun on her heels and walked away.Cornbread muffins

I could have pointed out that it was now past eleven, the time they begin serving lunch. Or I could have blamed it on the host who provided both the breakfast and lunch menus. I could have even told Veronica not to blame me that they weren’t ready to provide me with my ordered cornbread. 

Instead, as I pondered her interesting answer, I realized the response did not match the event. So that meant something else was going on. So, when Veronica finally did bring my cornbread–hot, flaky cornbread with fresh, warm butter… just sayin’– I thanked her and said, “You seem unhappy today. Is everything alright?”

Her eyes filled with tears and she hurried away. Moments later she returned, her eyes red. “I’m having the most terrible time right now.” For the next ten minutes, Veronica explained how she’d lost both parents in eight days. And this on the heels of her husband leaving her for someone… umm… younger. She had no place to go, no money and had to get the job she had waiting tables. 

When I finished my meal and rose to leave, Veronica returned to my table and gave me a big hug. Through tears that flowed for the second time in twenty minutes, she said, “Thank you for taking time to care.”

As I walked back in to the coolness and sunshine, her words really hit me hard. How many times had I been faced with a similar situation and never bothered to look beyond the fact that “the cornbread ain’t ready” to see a hurting fellow human being? Far too many I’m afraid. 

????????????Though I was able to reach out and help Veronica, she did much more for me than I ever did for her. I remembered that when people’s reaction is greater than the event, they’re living the emotion of something far bigger than the event. And I was reminded that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And, it doesn’t take much time to show someone you care. I was finished with my meal and out the door in the same amount of time I would have had I not had my encounter with Veronica.

In every eatery, grocery store, garage, car wash, hotel or hospital Veronica walks down the hallways. They halfheartedly muddle through their jobs. We just don’t realize that’s all they have to give because they are fighting insurmountable odds just to keep moving forward. 

What am I saying? When someone tells you, “The cornbread ain’t ready,” It’s not about the cornbread. It’s never about the cornbread.

 

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Got What You Want?

Posted October 31, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Lightning BoltsI sat for over thirteen hours waiting for a meat packing plant to ready the ground beef I was taking across the country to Florida. They weren’t amused when I offered to help round up Bessie for them to hurry things along. I was at the mercy of those who killed cows for a living and took great pride in grounding them up. 

Long after dark I finally headed south on a two lane deserted road. Within moments I drove into a horrific and blinding thunderstorm. Rain pelted my truck as wind blew the lightly loaded trailer all over the road. Fifteen foot drop offs lined both sides of the shoulderless pavement. I found myself wishing for another cow or two in the back to steady the load.

I was only able to see the black asphalt in front of me when lightning illuminated its path and I crept along trying desperately to Heavy Freeway Traffickeep the truck between the white lines. No phone service. No internet. Not a car in sight for mile after dark, dreary mile.

A large doe suddenly appeared on the side of the road with all intentions of crossing right in front of me. I could not slow down. Fortunately, she thought better of it and changed directions just as my rig spewed water over her fur. 

This is trucking…

I wanted to quit. To pull the truck over, leave the keys in the ignition and walk away. But that’s not what truckers do. Those who drive these enormous vehicles for a living battle insurmountable odds each and every day. They wait for days for a load and promise that come bad weather, breakdowns or impassable road conditions, they will deliver the goods on time.

They drive through ice and snow. They drive through the night using caffeine and satellite radio to stay awake. They miss birthdays, anniversaries, births, weddings, funerals, holidays just to make sure you have plenty of cookies on the shelves to choose from when you go to the grocery store. 

Road to DreamsDid you go shopping this week and got what you want? Thank a trucker. And while you’re at it, salute the millions of Americans who pick the berries, slaughter the hogs, slosh through warehouses packing, loading and shipping those possessions you now hold dear. Who are they? The nameless men and women who get paid minimum wage to do back-breaking work day after day for a demanding society we’ve all grown accustomed to. They can’t even afford to purchase the things they pack and ship, yet they continue to carry the torch that illuminates our capitalist nation. 

Got what you want? Think for a moment about the thousands who made it possible. Imagine what your life would be like without them or the goods they put into your life and appreciate their dedication and commitment. They are the backbone that keeps America strong. They are my heroes. 

American truckers and workers…Standing tall for America!

 

 

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Simply American

Posted October 29, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

IMG_2335As the sun tried desperately to poke through the high cloud ceiling of the Missouri morning, I wheeled into the rural area where I was to pick up my next load. The gate in front of me began to slide open as a security guard exited the shack to its right.

He recorded my truck and trailer number and asked the usual questions a driver is asked when arriving at a shipping location, to all I replied, “yes sir”.

His head suddenly shot up from looking at his clip board and I could instantly tell he thought I was mocking him by my responses… at least until he saw the sincerity on my face.

His eyes went misty and he said, “nobody’s ever shown me that much respect.  I’m a little slow, you know.”Billy Ray 3

“Well, we all tend to lose a bit of speed as we age.”

I knew that wasn’t what he meant but no matter his IQ, he deserved my respect and for the moments we had together, I was determined to give it to him in a way he would not soon forget.

I parked close to his guard shack as I waited for my load. As I knew would happen, he soon exited the shack and meandered over to my truck.

“I’m Billy Ray. I’m not all that smart but I’m really good at doing this job.

Billy Ray 1“Sure looks that way to me.”

“Why are you being so nice to me?”

“Well why shouldn’t I be?”

We talked for a few more moments and as he walked back to his guard shack, I realized what he shared with me is so typical. He does a thankless job so that Americans can have meat on their table.

Billy Ray is not a rocket scientist. He’ll most likely never win the Nobel Peace Prize for changing the world. Yet, day after day he stands guard over the gate and protects America’s beef from theft and even terrorists.

The truth is that the heartbeat of America pulses with those just like Billy Ray who live a simple life of quiet dedication to their simple jobs for minimal pay and very little thanks. Yet, they continue doing it.

Why? Because they are who they are and because of that, they just do what they do. They don’t crave the limelight or accolades. They just check you out at the grocery store or clean your clothes, or make up your bed at the hotel. They take your order at the restaurant or pick your potatoes in the field.IMG_2366

They are the backbone of America, rarely noticed. Yet, just like the human body, our great nation would not survive without them.

To all the Billy Ray’s out there, I salute you. To all of us who don’t notice them, I pray God will give us eyes to see them, to appreciate them, and to tell them how much they are needed.

The backbone of America is strong and the heartbeat of America is alive and well!

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The Half Empty Glass

Posted October 27, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

GLASS HALF FULLI like making my own coffee, or at least pouring my own when traveling. That way, I can fix it just the way I like it. Three or four sweet-n-low’s depending on the mug I use and fill the bottom with creamer up to the line. Then when I add coffee, it turns out perfect. Every time! I love my coffee but I’m really a pansy and have to have it just so or I don’t enjoy it. 

I recently had to order coffee at the counter at one of those very famous coffee places. You know the ones that insist on charging you six bucks to pour your coffee for you? I asked the young man to leave plenty of room at the top for cream. He smiled and assured me it would be his pleasure to serve it up my way. I walked over to the coffee “fixin” station and removed the lid, only to discover his idea of leaving room for cream meant a micro millimeter. 

Since the counter was crowded and I knew the plastic garbage bag would melt if I poured hot coffee in it, I went to the restroom and dumped a forth of the cup out into the sink then returned to make my coffee the way it was supposed to be. Never did taste right and I ended up not finishing it. 

As I sat sulking over missing my morning coffee event-and for me it IS an event- I pondered what had happened. I realized that what I enjoy the most is the warmth and sweetness that washes over my tongue, riding on the taste of coffee. I also discovered it really doesn’t matter whether the glass is half empty or half full. What matters is having enough space to sweeten things up to make the experience more enjoyable. 

That is so true with our lives as well. Raise your hand if your busy day is full. Yes, I see those hands. Are there any others? Most of us live such full lives we could not possibly fit another thing into it. Know what’s disturbing? Most of us just go on sipping plain black bitter coffee in life and don’t bother dumping some of the things out to make room for the sweeter things that would make life a true event for us.

I’ve given up a lot of time consuming things over the last two years that I’ve been on the road. I have to say I’ve never been more free. Every day has a sweetness to it… just like I like it. 

How full is  your glass? What could you empty out of it to make room for what you consider sweet? You owe it to yourself to empty out that glass and refill it with your favorite life flavors. You’ll enjoy the experience so much more. 

The half empty glass is your friend!

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God is Able!

Posted October 26, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

IMG_2166I got the news immediately after I delivered the goods early Sunday morning. One week after leaving my trainer behind and climbing up into my brand new hunter green Freightliner, this rookie solo driver was headed to the Big Apple.

New. York. City?!

My instructions were to pick up a trailer another driver had left in one of our drop yards in Pennsylvania and deliver the load of ice cream at 9:30 the next morning in Bay Shore on Long Island.

To make matters worse, the instructions said, “One dock only. Very tight fit.”

I was getting ready to have the driving experience of my career. No trainer to get out of the truck and spot me to make sure I didn’t IMG_2158hit anything. No more experienced driver to take over if I couldn’t “put the trailer in the hole.”

I HAD to do it and that was that.

So I did what any rookie trucker should do. I prayed. And I prayed some more. I suppose I could have called the weekend dispatcher and remind him that I was a complete and total greenhorn rookie.

But after praying, I realized that even on my best day, I’m only a successful truck driver by God’s amazing grace and that all things are possible with Him. So, even if I’d never been to New York City, let alone driven a tracker trailer rig through it, I’d be ok. If God be for me, what road or town could be against me, right?

I spent the night at a roadside text parking area and the next morning, naturally I was up early. I prayed.

IMG_2161Again.

My heart was filled with a peace I knew was only from my Father so I made the five mile trek to the location where I was to squeeze a 73 foot vehicle into a 63 foot hole. I parked on the street at the end of a cul-de-sac, and walked inside.

As described in my instructions, I would be forced to pull through a narrow parking lot with cars on both sides. Two brick walls extended from the building on the left, marking the dock I had to back into. I only had fifteen feet in front of my truck to maneuver the trailer into the slot. And to make matters worse, between the two walls, the pavement descended at an eleven percent grade.

I suddenly was overcome by a spirit of confidence. I would put my truck in that dock. I moved the 80,000 pound monster overIMG_2156 inches at a time. After about a dozen pull ups and inch backs, I was at the dock.

The owner of this small company ran outside scratching his head. He walked around the wall, to the adjacent vehicles and the docking walls, inspecting for damage. Finally he walked up to the driver’s door and asked, “How did you get in there so fast? We normally schedule unloading appointments an hour earlier than we need to unload because we know it takes at least forty-five minutes for the drivers to get into the dock.”

“Nothing to it,” I said. “God is able to put this truck anywhere you need for it to go. What me to drive it inside? He can do that too!”

He looked at me in bewilderment and walked away unable to comprehend what had just occurred.

I went back inside after my truck was unloaded. The entire atmosphere was somehow—different. The staff was nicer. The owner offered me ice cream. I grabbed my paperwork and wished them a happy day.

As I walked back out to my truck to begin the painstaking maneuver of actually backing out of the place I’d just gotten in, the owner called after me. I was concentrating so much on what I was about to do, I had not heard him follow me out.

“I just want you to know, nobody has ever gotten into this dock that fast, and without hitting anything.”

IMG_2162“Well, like I said, God is able.”

As he walked off shaking his head and I inched the truck back out of the parking lot, I thanked God that He did that for me. Only by His grace was I able to do the impossible.

No matter what each of you are going through—however impossible it may seem—God is able to do exceedingly above anything you ever thought possible. Truly. Trust Him no matter what you’re facing. He will get you safely into the dock. 

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Days Gone By

Posted October 24, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Hidden 1TrainAt the back of an inconspicuous building in industrial Greenville, SC, history sits silent, slowly rusting in the elements. Deep within the corridors of the once vibrant passenger train cars, the voices of the past call out, longing for days gone by. Train cars of yesteryear transported countless people and their dreams to cities all over America. Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis and points west.

Mothers held tight to their children who had no idea the trip back home to grandmas marked the day their family was torn apart. A young woman spread her wings for the first time and left the security of home in search of her identity and her own way to live life. A doctor answered the call, closed up his practice back east and headed west to provide medical aid on the Navajo Nation.IMG_2303

Each hallway echos with the sound of hope and promise. Each seat holds secrets revealed to a total stranger sitting next to them as tiny towns clicked by out the window. Bellman, porters and conductors mindlessly spouted rote commands to cars of passengers who’s ears were deafened by consuming thoughts of their destination.

Hundreds of miles away to the north, ancient buildings sat abandoned and silent, worn by the fierce winds of Lake Ontario. Railway cars that once carried necessities now rusted on abandoned rails. Just on the other side of the tracks, a graveyard provided the resting place for cars that had seen better days.

Everywhere I looked as I drove through rural upstate New York, I saw remnants of days that had long since retreated into the innermost hiding places of history. Life built up around the history and continued on. Locals don’t even notice the old buildings and other pieces of their past, but I did.

IMG_2306Our history forges our future. Perhaps a young man road that train to Greenville and grew up to become governor and changed the world. Or maybe the old buildings on Lake Ontario housed furs trapped by the Native Americans and grizzly trappers who braved the cold to help America stay warm.

Time does wait for no man. It marches forward with a determination to continue ticking out the hours and days until they become a part of the past, then releases it as if it never were connected. History, on the other hand, is the bedrock of today upon which we build our tomorrows. It is undeniable. Unshakable. Unmistakable. The days gone by point the way. It shows us where we missed and weaves a fabric of hope and future.

I love to reminisce about my days gone by. Yes, even the worst of them are part of who I am and I gain so much wisdom from them. I’m grateful for each one. Many I would not wish to return to but I treasure them all. They whisper to me on a cold dark night. They compel me down the roads of our great nation in search of the heartbeat of America.

Days gone by…

 

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Refused to Give Up on Life

Posted October 22, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

EDNAI stood in line with other drivers to be assigned a dock to unload my goods when an older black woman sauntered up. When I spoke, a broad smile revealed the absence of all her teeth. Her wild hair was concealed in a well-worn bandana.

She joined in the conversation I was having with another driver about why we do what we do. Edna said she did it “for my babies”.

Once we were docked, she stopped approached my truck and began telling me her story. She told me that trucking or turning tricks were the only two things she could do to earn money. She’d been illiterate and her husband was shot and killed, leaving her with three small children to take care of. She could never give up on life. Edna didn’t want to risk jail so she had someone help her memorize the words on the road signs. She collected bottles and cans on the side of the road and sold them to get the money to get her driver license.

She begged a company to train her how to drive a truck and seeing the determination in her eyes, they reluctantly agreed. That was over twenty years ago. Today, Edna still drives a truck. Her three kids are all grown and each of them went to college, got degrees and are living a wonderful, successful life.

Edna’s children beg her to give up driving. They went together and bought her a home. They’d even pay her living expenses. And yet she keeps driving. I asked her why. She said, I owe this company my life and my baby’s lives. It’s the least I can do. I’ll keep driving until they don’t need me anymore or until I can’t press in a clutch, whichever comes first.

She taught herself to read and devours at least two books a week these days. When her children graduated high school, Edna earned her GED. Her children all came to her graduation ceremony at the community center in the neighborhood where they all grew up.

Edna allowed me to take her picture but only from behind. She is modest and is not given to fanfare. This lady is a hero. When standing at a crossroads with hungry mouths to feed, Edna chose to do the right thing and, by her own report, God rewarded her for it.

When I drove away from that early morning delivery in New Jersey, I felt rich. Like I had taken a dip in warm, liquid gold. I was privileged to have been in the presence of a woman of such determination and will never forget Edna.

A woman of courage.

A woman of conviction.

A lady who refused to give up on life.

 

 

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A Soldier and His Dog

Posted October 20, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Homeless VeteranSitting at a traffic light on an overpass, I was grateful to have risen above the heavy traffic I’d fought since leaving Charlotte. As I gazed mindlessly at the cars, trucks and general nothingness that one sees when their mind has numbed from hours on the road, my eyes locked on a man sitting to my right at the end of the exit ramp. 

He was not alone. When cars exited the freeway and pulled to a stop, he stood and coached his dog through a series of tricks. Drivers handed money out the window as payment for the great show. The pup jumped up snatched the bills from their hands. The show repeated until the light turned green. Then the dog immediately stopped, sat down at his master’s feet as he sat back down on his duffle bag awaiting the next group of cars.

I could not believe what I witnessed and could not resist the opportunity to meet this man. Fortunately there was a truck stop a half block away so I wheeled my rig in and walked back up to the intersection. I stared deep into his eyes and saw a pride that had been wounded by life and its bullets that pierced his heart. 

His name was Walter. He could have been my brother, or my uncle, my grandfather or father. Years ago, he’d stood in line to sacrifice his life for my freedom. He laced on boots, picked up a gun and went off to fight. The war had not been kind to him. When he returned to the greatest nation in the world, he found it difficult to adjust and walked away from life as he knew it. 

Today Walter and Gigi the wonder dog live in the woods and entertain passersby for a living. He’s happy living a simple life. No worries. No deadlines or stress. No one shoots at him or ridicules him for his work. He just shares his day with his dog and total strangers. He’s living HIS American dream.

Walter, I salute you. Thank you for ensuring that America remains free. Gigi, my hat’s off to you. Your spirit made my heart soar. 

Everyone has a story. When you see someone on the side of the road at an intersection, don’t look the other way. Don’t judge them. They could have fought for you so you can drive that fancy car and have the right to self expression, albeit turning your nose up at someone you don’t even know. Remember that is a person who is dealing with real challenges in life. Never forget that except by the grace of God, any of us could be there. Walter was not a vagabond. He is a war hero. He fought for us in Iraq not once but twice. When I look at him, I don’t see a homeless man. Now that I took the time to learn his story, I see a soldier and his dog.

 

 

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The Heartbeat of America is Alive and Well!

Posted October 17, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Storm BrewingI wound through the gears headed eastbound from the Kansas-Oklahoma border as an enormous size storm brewed in my rear view mirror. With tons of beef in the back, it was unlikely I would outrun it, at least not for long. The wind increased in force, blowing tumbleweeds across the road as I lumbered along at a governed 58 miles per hour.

I watched as farmers and ranchers prepared for the torrent, while horses and cows nonchalantly munched on grass, completely uncaring that the storm was coming. Grannies in their Buicks hearts raced as they tapped the accelerator, trying desperately to make it home before their shampoo and set was ruined.

I drove and thought about these people, complete strangers with whom I shared a common bond. We are all Americans. I realizedButte in New Mexico that must be the focus of my blog moving forward. I’m a story teller and people are changed by the stories I tell. God has gifted me and I must tell the stories of those I meet along the way.

Last year on the Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour (thanks for riding with me!) I discovered a truth I may have never known had I not pedaled into the backroads of our great nation: the Heartbeat of America is Alive and Well! In this time in which we find ourselves breathing and living, it’s so easy to lose track of that fact.

I feel it my duty- and my privilege- to bring you encouragement by telling the stories of our fellow Americans all across our land. I hope you stay with me for the ride. I trust you will share these stories with those who need to be uplifted.

Cody and Troops Trailer in Small TownI have always been patriotic, proud to be an American. I salute the flag and stand any time I hear our National Anthem, regardless of where I am. My American roots run deep. Since June, I’ve criss crossed the US countless times. I share a wealth with thousands of others I’ve met. It’s the treasure of being American. By birth or by boat, we are Americans and yes, in 2014 the heartbeat of America is alive and well.

I hope you’ll join me as we get reacquainted with America and its amazing people.

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Open Road… Open Mind…

Posted August 27, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Behind the WheelPeople marvel that I would leave the “real” world behind and become a “Trucker Babe”. After all, truckers are grizzly characters, right? Ummm, not so much. Since taking to the open road, I’ve met nuclear engineers, doctors, former vice presidents of major corporations, and an attorney. Each of them traded in their corner offices and stock options for the highways of our great nation.

Why? They have their reasons. Some lost their jobs and could not get another job in their industry, a very sad yet true state of our economy. Some grew tired of the rat race and decided to escape it all. Still others love the adventure and sense of freedom that being on the open road affords.

What about me, you ask? Let me answer that by telling you a story.

I was four the first time I came close to a big rig. A family friend came for a visit in his truck. When he got ready to leave, he IMG_0939jokingly asked me if I wanted to go with him. I bravely began to climb the steps into the cab. My dad grabbed me and pulled me back. That was one of the most disappointing moments of my life. I really wanted to go.

There is always something “out there” that lures me, compelling me to come just a little farther. Some call it a pioneer spirit in me. Others say I’m an adventurer. All I know is that I’m never satisfied with things, or being in one place. When I’ve been in one place for a while, I get restless. I need to move… to explore… to see what’s over the next hill.

I always thought I was weird but since I began driving a truck, I’ve discovered it’s actually quite common. That’s why physicians gave up their practices and business owners sold out for an 18-wheeled office with an ever changing view. There is a need in each of us to discover… to become… to be in motion.

IMG_0965I’ve said it before but I’m experiencing in a new and BIG way how important it is to follow your dream… wherever that leads. People will not understand. Do it anyway. People won’t believe. Follow your own heart. Some will criticize. Pray for them. They have no idea what they’re missing in their own lives. Above all, be true to the yearning inside you that keeps you looking out there… somewhere… wherever that is for you. If you do, you’ll lay your head upon your pillow at the end of a grueling day and rest in peace and satisfaction knowing you’re doing what you were meant to do.

A very special thank you to all the wonderful folks at Lifeway Christian Store in Greenville, SC. You inspire me to be all I can be.

What do you aspire to do… someday? When is someday? Share it here!

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