Somewhere in Montana this morning there’s a young woman on a bus with a half-eaten sandwich and an unfinished quart of chocolate milk, heading west toward an uncertain future. She’s there because of a friend of mine, and I want to tell you a short story of true compassion and an unspoken reaffirmation of a lifelong friendship.
My friend stopped at a Bismarck gas station yesterday afternoon and was approached by a young woman asking about a ride west. She wanted to get at least as far as Dickinson by dark. My friend said she was sorry she wasn’t going west, but, being inquisitive, asked of her circumstances. The woman said she and her boyfriend had come to North Dakota seeking work–they had heard about good jobs here–but hadn’t had a lot of luck until a couple days ago. The boyfriend had found a job, and had dumped her in Bismarck with nothing but a sleeping bag. She had slept on the street somewhere the night before, and somehow had made contact with her family in Washington state, who said she should come back home. She didn’t have any money. Neither did her family in
Washington. She was hungry, cold, tired and broke.
My friend is one of the most caring, compassionate women I know. This young woman didn’t know it at the time (or maybe she did; maybe she saw something in my friend’s eyes–she’s a bit of an open book) but she could not have picked a better person to tell her story to. My friend listened, swooped the young woman up, bought her a quart of chocolate milk and “a humongous sandwich,” and drove her to the bus depot. There, she bought the young woman a $200 non-refundable bus ticket to Seattle, put her on the bus, and said goodbye. I would have liked to have seen the hug the two exchanged as my friend left the bus depot.
The $200 for the bus ticket is nothing to sneeze at. My friend isn’t rich. But she had enough money for the bus ticket and the young woman didn’t. She’s a mother, and perhaps envisioned a child of hers in a similar situation. Whatever, she did not hesitate for an instant when she saw a clear path to a solution for this young woman’s problems. The young woman, like Blanche Dubois, depended on “the kindness of strangers” to help her through a bad time. By the end of the day today, she should be in the arms of her family. I’ll bet she will never forget my friend.
We all have friends. Some of them we’ve had most of our lives. We take them for granted. They are just “there.” We don’t think about “why.” And then something like this happens, and we are reminded “why.” Why they are our friends. God, it’s good to know people like this.