Last night I met Ricky and Stephanie. Ricky looked to be in his mid-twenties, and Stephanie a bit younger. They were at that same ramp off of highway 101. They live a fascinating life that I didn't know still existed. This guy and girl ride trains, semis, and hitch-hike across country... just because they can. They eat what they can buy or what people give them and sleep under overpasses. I was surprised to learn that there are large communities of these people who do this all the time. They travel to a town, split up, meet a new group and start all over again finding people who will help them along the way. They aren't trying to get anywhere, they just want to travel around. Their worldview and attitude are very different from the "normal" homeless people in our area. They could very easily get jobs and a place to stay, but were on the streets simply for the experience. They had just gotten in from a long trek that started in St. Augustine, Florida.
The guy had tons of stories of "living outdoors" as he called it. "There was this one time me and my buddies were in the back of a truck outside of Shreveport and were stuck in the rain for three hours. That was weird."
"There was this one time that me and a group a' guys were ridin' the trains around. Right when it stopped we decided to get off. It was a Sunday morning and there was a church nearby. We walked up to it and were like, 'How do you go in?' then we saw there was a sign on the door that said 'sanctuary'. I turned to my friend and said, 'That's weird.' so we walked in. It was like, a bunch of gray-headed old people. They kept turning around and looking at us; then they would smile, and wave, and come up to shake our dirty hands. I only had like 40 cents in my pocket so I put it in the basket they passed around. After the service the pastor gave me a Bible with 40 dollars stickin' out of it. Weird man, totally weird."
"There was this one time I was picked up by this guy just outside of Indianapolis. He was a real clean-cut guy in a nice suit driving a new minivan. There were no seats in the back, just a couple of boards and a lawn chair. I had a dog with me at the time, and he started going nuts when he sniffed one of the boards. 'Oh, don't worry about the dog.' the man told me, 'He probably just smells the dead bodies.' I thought to myself, 'Oh %$*&! I am about to get chopped to pieces by some crazy guy in a minivan. I don't want to die in Indianapolis. I don't want to die.' I didn't know what to do. If we weren't going down the highway I could have kicked him in the face and run away or something. I've never been so scared in my life. I thought I would just keep talking to the guy and maybe he would have second thoughts about throwing me into his freezer. While we were talking I came to find out that he's a mortician. Thank God."
I asked them if they ever missed the "normal life" of living indoors with beds and kitchens and stuff. Ricky resolutely shook his head and talked about sleeping under the stars and having the passing traffic lull him to sleep like waves on the seashore. Stephanie, though, looked very homesick, and even said as much. It was obvious that she was only going along with this lifestyle so she could be near him.
I told them that they reminded me a little bit of Jesus, that he was homeless and traveled around all the time too. They seemed to appreciate that. I shared the gospel with them, told them about our hot-meals at church, and took them up to Hollywood (they wanted to try to see some stars leaving the academy awards). I gave them a couple of gospels of John with tracts in the front, and told them the best thing they could ever do with their lives would be to give them to God, and they seemed genuinely grateful for our time together.
If you see them (the curlicue tattoo on Ricky's right cheek gives him away) tell them hi for me.