I Just Gotta Get Home

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.