Thursday, 20 December 2012

A Free Ride

My mother walked in abruptly. She had a bad habit of not knocking. She caught me at mid-pace. ‘So, you really want to go?’  Her curious eyes looked me up and down. I stared back at her.  ‘If Jesus and Buddha could do it why can’t I?’

Then my dad walked in abruptly. He also had a bad habit of not knocking as well. “If you leave, I’ll throw out all of your stuff.”  He announced furiously. “You can’t come back here.” He gave me a menacing look,  exited my room and went to bed. My mother and I went back to pondering whether I could be as fearless as Jesus and Buddha.

By the end, my mother was scared and thoroughly confused by my argumentation.  But, she recognized this was important to me and agreed that I should go and that’s all that mattered.

The next morning, donning 7 layers of pants, my highlighter red parka and my overwhelmingly large backpack, I was ready to leave. My parents put me in their unnecessarily large SUV and drove me to pick up the others at a local subway station.

Thirty Minutes later we’d divided into groups of two and walked to the nearest highway ramp. 

My travel companion (Beacon) and I stood by the large green HWY 400 street sign holding a piece of card-board that indicated we were going north.

Five minutes passed and not a car stopped. I was already starting to feel like an idiot. It was unnerving standing on a busy street with so many cars just passing by without even a glance. In this day and age, had I really thought this could work?

But then another five minutes passed and when I was about to call it a day; a mini-van stopped in front of us. I was baffled with Joy. Had someone just really stopped after only ten minutes of waiting? 

“Thank you, and thank you.” I greeted the driver. 

And like that I was offered my first free ride from a complete stranger.

He was a ginger with a wide smile. His name was Christian. He offered to drive us till Barrie. And when I found two Canadian flags on the floor of his minivan, he offered them to me without a hesitation. I waved the flag back and forth and smiled and ranted about being thankful and feeling blessed. He told us how he used to hitch-hike all the time and he was just returning the favour.

He dropped us off at a ramp in Barrie that was heading for the Trans-Canada Highway. We thanked him once more and pulled our large bags out of his trunk. 

As I struggled to put the bag on my back another Minivan drove up. Two girls in their early twenties popped out, ‘Need a ride?’

I couldn’t believe it. Had we just been offered our second ride? It hadn’t been more than a minute since our last ride? Was this really that easy?

Soon our stuff was in their Van. Shauna (the Driver) starred at me through her rear view mirror as she drove and curiously got to know me. She was clearly Jewish.Her wild dark-brown curly hair was tied in a messy bun to the top of her head. And really, that was enough to give it away.

She was so beautifully down to earth and I loved her almost instantly. She wore mismatched ski gear from the 80’s and she spoke in a soothing empathetic voice.

She was on her way to a ski resort (Horseshoe Valley). She suggested we join and that after she was done skiing she’d drive us further along. We took her up on her generous offer.

As they skied, we spent the afternoon talking up the manager in the cafeteria. We told her how we were heading north and then west and trying to get as far as we could without spending a dime. She found our story endearing. She gave us free pizza.

While eating our free pizza, the girls finally returned from the Mountains. It was dark and time for them to drive further down the highway and drop us off wherever. We’d come prepared to camp out in the forests along the highway. But the girls were feeling more generous. After whispering privately between themselves they offered for us to stay with them for the night.

“My parents own a cottage in Perry Sound. We’re staying there tonight. You should join.”

The girls took us to a beautiful newly built cottage by the lake in Perry Sound. Shauna’s Bubby had paid for it to be made.

That night I settled into my sleeping bag, on the sofa in the middle of her cottage's spacious living room. I couldn’t help but smile to myself. I couldn't believe my luck.

When I’d decided to go on this journey, I had been quite scared. Many had discouraged it. “It will be dangerous.” I was told, “You’ll get robbed.” But, I refused to give precedence to fear. I wanted to prove the absolute was possible.

I had left home with literally nothing but the bag on my back, a tent for shelter and a bit of cash. And, on my first night on the road, I hadn’t needed any of the stuff I’d brought. I received all my essential needs for Free. Free rides, free food and free shelter. 

I thought to myself. This must be what Gautama Buddha experienced, when he left home and wealth to pursue the life of a wandering Monk. There are stories of the immense charity he experienced. How people consistently took him into their homes and fed him.

That day I ended up seeing that the power of Compassion still reigned on Earth. It was uplifting to be reminded that the world isn’t as shady as we’re often led to believe. But rather, there are still many people out there ready to provide a helping hand and be compassionate to complete strangers.

As the New Year nears, I hope to hold this experience dear to my heart. All I’ve ever wanted was to be happy. And if I’ve learned anything this year, to give and receive Compassion or Unconditional Love is the greatest Joy one can experience. 

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