“It’s OK honey”, she reassured him. “You are doing this with dignity. You gave everything for them and it’s not wrong to ask for a little help back. ” He slips on his hat, tucks in his shirt and glances at himself in the hallway mirror. His ten year old daughter comes over with the poster board they were working on earlier that morning. “I love you Daddy.”
It’s a beautiful Flori-day and the two of us are cruising up I-75 with the GPS in the truck set to our new home for the next week or so. Our perky little GPS voice says that in about 200 miles and in a little over 3 hours, we should be pulling in to Stephen Fosters State Park in White Springs Florida. Hi ho hi Ho it’s down the road we go. We talk about the great experience we had as Volunteers over the last month at Lithia Springs Park. An hour drifts by in conversation and singing with the radio and I glance down at the GPS and it says that we have 140 miles to go and we should get there in 3 hours. What? Something is wrong here. My co-pilot puts on her navigator hat and pulls out our arsenal of travel aids. Google maps is up on the Android Galaxy S4. The IPAD is loading the All-Stays travel app as she reaches back for the laminated truckers atlas. She turns to me with wide eyes and reports, “There’s an accident up ahead”.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to do this with you” his wife gently asks as she pulls the car to the side of the road. “No, I think this needs to just be me.” He turns and looks at his daughter in the back seat with her bald little head and fights back the tear that would surely lead to another waterfall. She turns off the car, “How do know that this is the right place honey? Perhaps we should find an area that has a few more cars and traffic.” He leans over and pulls his wife into a tender hug and after a few seconds pass he whispers in her ear ” Let’s pray one more time as a family.” They all three hold hands in the car and send their message of hope one more time up to the heavens.
My navigator confirms that indeed there isn’t one accident up ahead, but five fender benders. “Google says we’ll have at least a 45 minute delay. No wait it just changed, now it’s an hour delay.” By the time we come to a rest area, it was up to an hour and fifteen minute slowdown. So we decide to pull over, munch on our tuna fish sandwiches and access our re-routing options. The first accident was still a good thirty miles up the road and the live google maps showed the traffic beginning its slow down in about twenty miles. We decide on our detour and confirm through our Rand McNally Truckers atlas as well as the All-Stays app that our 13’3″ tall house won’t suddenly find itself stuck under and 12′ bridge. We down the last few bites of lunch and as we walk back to the truck I have a mixture of feelings stirring around. It feels good to travel and truly not be in a rush. Even if we got stuck in that hour plus grid lock, we would just go with the flow, no worries, we’ll get there. But in the same breath getting off the big roads and taking our home and everything we own down unknown windy country roads brings the hair on my neck to attention. We merge back onto I-75 as I hum to myself “I’ve got the whole world in my hands…..”
“Dear God thank you for the gift of life. We are so grateful for the family that you have created with the three of us. We want our love to shine in your honor father. God we need your help today and humbly ask for your guidance once again. Please lord let this be the right place. Let the right people come into my path. Let them see my spirit and feel my truth and let their kindness somehow pour into our family.” His wife quietly echos his Amen as he slowly and awkwardly steps to the curb.
The traffic suddenly thickens and I slow down to 15 MPH and then break to 10 MPH and now we are stopped one mile from the exit that will begin our detour. Somehow I thought it would just be me and my beautiful navigator sneaking off the interstate at just the right spot. We inch along and try to scoot our 36′ fifth wheel over across four lanes of traffic to be ready for the exit ramp. Seems everyone else didn’t wake up smiling like we did today. Time to be a bit more aggressive. Ten minutes later we begin the descent down the off ramp… and there he was.
Standing at the bottom of the ramp on the left side of the road was a clean cut man standing perfectly still. As I inch up closer we both focus on that fact that he had a prosthetic leg. His right arm was in flawless military salute and the left was holding a poster with the words “My Family Could Use A Little Help”. As we go closer I see the words Semper Fi on the top right corner and a few flowers drawn around the edges. We pull out all the cash we have in the truck and I roll down the window and look into his eyes. He brings his arm down from the salute and walks over. “Thank you so much for your service” I say to him, wishing I also had the winning lotto ticket that I could give him too. He smiles and says “My God Bless you both”, and promptly returns to his military salute.
We both sit in silence and watch him stand impeccably at attention until the light turns green. I flip on my blinker and begin my turn to the left and can see in the rear view mirror that the car behind me was rolling down their window too. Neither the Marine nor the two of us had any idea what the rest of this day would bring. If the three of us could have somehow lifted ourselves up into the sky at that moment and looked down on what was coming when I made that turn, I think we all would have been blown away. Up ahead for us, was no bridges to worry about and a unforgettable mosey along the back roads of north Florida, filled with rolling hills covered in breathtaking horse farms and ranches. And for the Marine… well, an endless sea of cars would flow to him all day long as they too try to make a detour around an accident. He would fill every pocket he had with the love and kindness of strangers. He would be able to pay his daughter’s doctors bill, and his family as well as the two of us, would be reminded once again that with God, GREAT things are possible.