I rolled to a stop on an exit ramp just as the driver two cars ahead of me began having a conversation with a man who sat on the side of the road. His dog sat calmly at his side as his master displayed a sign that read, “I am really hungry. God bless.”
The driver told the man he would give him money but he’d have to get up off his lazy butt to come get it.
“What if I send my dog for it? Would that be okay?”
The man shook his head. “If you want my money, you’ll have to meet me halfway.”
The indigent man agreed and lifted the blanket off his lap as cars and trucks filed in behind us making a very long line. We all waited as this fifty-something man wobbled on nubs that ended about four inches below his hips. He stood about two feet tall as he maneuvered toward the car. The once very cocky—if not annoyed—driver opened his door and jumped out, hurrying toward the handicapped man.
The embarrassed driver reached deeper into his pockets and pulled out more money, perhaps as a peace offering. My guess it was to quiet his turbulent conscience.
The next car rolled up as the other driver sped off. He, too provided money. Now it was my turn. I gave him a hundred dollars and told him I would bring him and his dog food right back. I turned the corner headed for the truck stop and noticed every car stopped and the drivers did the same thing.
I grabbed food from the burger joint and hurried on foot to where he was. I handed him the food and said, “So sorry you had to endure that. The guy was a jerk.”
He waved it off. “Awww, wasn’t nothin’. Even though I ain’t got none, I sure got a leg up on him.” He chuckled. “Folks felt sorry for me and they gave me over $200! I ain’t made that much money in a month before, much less five minutes.”
Jed (short for Jedediah), lost both legs in a coal mining accident. The mines closed down and Jed was left to fend for himself. He’s not bitter, angry or hateful toward anyone. He said it is just a part of life and takes it all in stride…albeit a four inch long stride on all that’s left of once strong legs.
Jed and his dog Butch make a living on the good graces of others. Waiting for handouts and not knowing where their next meal will come is their way of life. And they have adapted to it. They live in one room at a fleabag motel on the interstate. His disability check covers that but does not leave him enough to eat and buy other necessities.
I asked him how I could help him. He simply replied, “You already have. You treated me like I’m somebody. Like I matter… you know?”
As I hugged Jed, petted Butch and trotted off back to my truck, I couldn’t help but replay the look on the face of Mr. “You have to meet me halfway” when he realize he’d demanded that someone with no legs come get his handout. It’s a very loud reminder that things are not always as they seem. We don’t have the right to judge. It also is a clear demonstration that ALL things work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.
America stepped up that day and gave to Jed and Butch. They helped their neighbor. They stood for what America is all about. The Heartbeat of America is still alive and well.