Coming around the bend the driver saw the hitchhiker.
It was a young man dressed in a large t-shirt and blue jeans. The man had no luggage or backpack of any kind. He carried nothing.
The driver hesitated and then decided to give the young man a ride.
“Where are you heading”, the driver asked as the young man got into the front seat of the car. There was a Bible in his way; he moved it over to make room.
“As far away as I can get”, smiling as he said it. After a moment he added, “I’m going to Riverside, but I’d appreciate as far as you can take me.”
“I guess I can get you up the road a bit. I was not really going anywhere myself, just driving. My name is Donald.”
“Jason”, said the young man. “Glad to meet you Donald”.
They traveled in silence for a while. The city lights faded as they traveled. Soon they were on the state highway. The stars were out and the sky was black. There was not another car in sight on this late Sunday night.
Finally Donald broke the silence. “Why Riverside? If you don’t mind me asking?”
Jason turned to Donald and spoke, his hand unknowingly resting on the Bible in the middle of the two passengers, “Oh, no reason, except if only to get away from here, if you know what I mean. Do you know what I mean mister?” There was a plea in his eyes, a want for someone to understand what the young man was feeling.
Donald answered, “I guess I could understand. I…” he had a hard time getting it out…“There’ve been times that I've wanted to just get away.”
“More than away mister, sometimes I think the answer is to just give up. I’m not sure if it is all really worth the trouble.” Jason stared at the road, waiting for a reply.
Donald could not believe what he was hearing. Why tonight? Why this young man? What was he to say to him, to do for him?
Jason picked up the Bible. “Do you believe this stuff?”
Donald thought for a moment. He thought of all the times he had read it, the comfort it had brought him over the years. “I do”, he said, “I really do”.
“So this it the part where you tell me that there is a God who loves me and that cares about me. About what happens to me?”
Donald did not answer right away.
The car traveled over a bridge, the sound of the pavement humming beneath their feet, the rhythm of the wheels making clicking sounds as they made their way over the bridge.
Each man looked out at the moon and it’s reflection on the water below, both lost in thought.
Finally Donald spoke. “Yes Jason, that’s what I am going to tell you. I have seen it in my life. Many times. God does care about you, He wants to…”
“Wants to what mister?” Jason interrupted. “You don’t know anything about me. You have no idea what I have done.”
“You’re right. I don’t. But He does.” Donald thought about the words as he said them. “And He will help you get through anything.”
Before long the city of Riverside began to creep up in front of them. Donald could not believe they were there already. He pulled the car into the first gas station on the edge of town, all quiet at this time of night.
“Jason, listen to me. Take my Bible with you. Think about what I have said.”
“All right mister, I’ll think about it, I really will. Thanks mister”. Jason got out of the car, Bible in hand.
“Are you going to be okay?” Donald asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be alright. How about you, will you be okay?”
Donald thought about the question. Thought it a strange question to be asking him, and yet…“Don’t worry about me, Jason. I’ll live.”
And with that, Jason closed the door.
Donald turned the car around and started heading toward home.
He watched as Jason stood in the parking lot. He watched in the rearview mirror until he could see him no more.
He drove in silence.
Soon he came upon the bridge that they had crossed earlier. He pulled the car to the side of the road.
He began to cry.
He reached over to the glove compartment and opened it. The gun immediately fell to the floor of the car. He grabbed the gun, got out of the car, and began to walk across the bridge.
He got to the middle of the bridge. No cars in sight, the moon still shinning on the water of the river below.
He held the gun, turning it over and over in his hand.
Slowly he opened the chamber of the gun and took out a bullet. One by one he threw them out into the water. With the gun empty of bullets, he took one last look at it and heaved it over the railing of the bridge, hearing the splash as it hit the water’s surface below.
He walked back to the car.
Once inside he reached for the Bible, for a moment forgetting that he had given it to Jason. His hand stopped short. He looked at what he thought would be an empty space beside him.
Much to his surprise the Bible was there.
With tears falling freely he picked it up and held it tightly in his hands.
He began to drive. Home. Home to a life now worth living.
The car cruised down the road on a quiet and peaceful Sunday night.