I met a transient couple named Justine and Wayne sitting outside of a downtown hotel today.
This wasn’t the first time I’d seen them, but it was the first time I’d stopped to talk. Yesterday, they had been sitting alongside the on ramp for the interstate with their dogs, holding up a sign and asking for a ride to a town about a 90-minute drive from here. My husband and I commented to each other that it would probably be hard for them to get a ride with those dogs.
We were right.
When I saw them on the sidewalk today, I recognized them right away, probably because of those dogs. Wayne was playing a banjo as the foursome sat under the awning, protected from the pouring rain. They were pretty dirty, and Wayne’s disfigured face showed outward signs of a difficult life.
I figured they had gotten a Salvation Army voucher for the night, given the rainy and cold conditions, but also figured they didn’t have anything to eat. I went around the block and pulled up to the couple and their dogs, got out and walked right up to them like I knew them.
I told the couple I’d seen them yesterday on the interstate and asked if they had anything to eat. When they said no, I asked if I could go pick them up some fried chicken from the deli. They were both visibly shocked and thankful for the offer.
While at the store, I picked up a small bag of dog food, peanut butter granola bars, gum and of, course, the chicken dinner from the deli. I also picked up a small notebook so I could ask them if I could visit with them and then blog about their story. You could say this reporter is a little out of practice, forgetting to carry a notepad everywhere she goes!
So I returned back to the sidewalk by the motel and took the opportunity to visit with Wayne and Justine, who shared they hopped a coal train that ended them up in Glendive.
She was 20 and had been living on the streets since her parents kicked her out at the age of 15. Home, at least the place that once was home for her, is Wisconsin. He was from Minnesota. He didn’t say how old he was, though he didn’t look much older than Justine.
They told me they were hoping to get to Dickinson to find work so they could buy a truck.
In the meantime, they were going to wait the weather out at the motel. It sure beat sleeping on the ground, they said, noting that their dogs were not only good for protection and company but also for heat on a cold night.
I gave them my cell number and a card from my church – told them if they were still around tomorrow night at 7 to join us for a laid-back worship service where they could come just as they were. I asked them if I could pray for them, which I did, then gave them each a hug.
Who knows the road these kids have traveled that brought them to our random little map dot along the railroad trail on this day. Their past probably includes a series of bad circumstances and bad decisions, but it’s certainly not my place to judge or analyze.
What I do know is I saw my fellow man in need, and am so privileged to have had an opportunity to respond. My hope is that this story would encourage others to do the same.
Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”