Don’t Judge a Book By its Cover

I got up from my nap, slipped on a jacket and walked to the other truck stop across the road to Denny’s. I was greeted and placed in a corner booth by a young lady. As she placed the menu on the table in front of me, I tried not to stare at the numerous tattoos covering both arms, neck and chest.

Lisa took my order and after bringing my grilled cheese sandwich—perfect cuisine on a blustery day—she returned to my table many times to check on me. On one trip, she sat down across the booth from me and explained she found a way to ring up my meal to save me a “ton of money.” I suppose that to a young waitress two bucks was a lot and I expressed my gratitude to her for her efforts.

Then without my asking—I promise I did NOT ask this time—she began to tell me her life story. Over twenty years ago, a woman trucker picked up a young female hitchhiker who was traveling to nowhere in particular with two baby girls in tow.  They rode together halfway across the country. The trucker stopped for fuel and while she was in the truck stop, the woman disappeared. She left only a note giving the trucker “temporary” custody of the girls until she could get back on her feet.

She was never seen again.

The trucker could have called the authorities. She could have given the two beautiful little girls over to the police, social workers or foster care. Instead, she kept them with her on her truck. Days turned into weeks and months turned into years. She raised them as her own. She shattered her knee and while having it surgically replaced, developed such a bad infection, they wound up having to amputate her leg. She was forced to come off the road.

Life got very difficult with no income. They became homeless and were forced into the streets. Lisa’s trucker mom never officially adopted her or her sister but was every bit a mom to them as anyone could ever be.

“Things have been hard, especially financially,” Lisa offered with a shrug. “But I’m really proud that I’ve never been on drugs and I don’t have a criminal record. I could have, you know.”

“Statistically, you’re a rarity. It speaks very highly of your character. You’re quite an incredible young lady.”

She smiled and said, “I have two girls of my own now. No way I’m going to leave them.” She paused and looked off to someplace in a past life for a long moment. “I know my mom loved us. But she was desperate. Things are tough for me, too, but we’re making it. She didn’t have to leave us at a truck stop but we were in good hands. I’ve had a good life.”

She is grateful that she has a good job waiting tables at Denny’s and her boyfriend has a job at the convenience store. He has a daughter as well so now there are three. One more mouth to feed but they are finding a way to make it work on their meager wages.

Lisa is not the rough and tumble grizzly girl her tattoos would suggest. She’s an old soul encased in a young woman’s body. She is kind, considerate, helpful. She’s also tenacious with a grip on life more solid than super glue.

I’ve heard it said we should never judge a book by its cover. I’ve tried to live my life not judging others by their appearance. Today I’m glad I took my own advice or I would have completely missed the priceless treasure hidden in the grassy plains of Nowhere, Nebraska.

One mother couldn’t make it. One took up where she left off and raised a stranger’s daughters into mighty women. Strong and courageous, these soldiers of circumstance decided to write their own book on their lives, complete with their own happily ever after. It proves you should NEVER just a book by its cover.

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