Twenty Bucks for a Ride
It was a cold and damp January morning and I was trying to kick-start myself for work with a coffee from a Timmy's in a harsher central district of the city. Six-fifteen A.M. on a Friday. Happily only a small line-up and then out the door to the car.
"I'll pay you twenty bucks if you will drive me to de-tox." "What was that?" "Excuse me sir, I need to get to the de-tox centre behind the hospital. I'll pay you."
She was in her young thirties. An outfit of slacks and sweater that had been worn one day too long. A thin autumn rain jacket. She nursed the last of her coffee for the warmth, on the sidewalk and under the night-light. Her make-up running. Trembling and stunned by the cold. Obviously a Thursday night outing gone very bad. An apologetic, eyes-downward expression for yet another fall off the wagon. Then she looked up imploringly with what appeared to be younger girl's eyes, and I knew that I had to provide this help.
I held open the car door, not thinking of some of the possible consequences of this action with a strange woman in the dark. I was quick to turn on the heater full blast. "Don't worry I know exactly where the place is. It will be no bother at all. Put away the money."
She must have felt obligated, at least, to give some sort of explanation. I heard a truncated version of a night with "friends" who were no friends at all. Good old Thursday night in Kitchener, pub night, a night to let loose. Yeah, Kitchener the brewery town, the Oktoberfest town. The blight of it and the spiritual cloud hangs over us year-round. In the early dawn I have often seen its by-products - the unshaven man sleeping on the bench, the unfinished argument, the haggard girls after tricks on Cedar Street, the vomit and condoms in the parking lot, the frightened lass crying at the Seven Eleven Store, the black-eyed boy standing beside the police cruiser.
I assured this young woman that there were people who would understand and help at the centre. It was good that she was going there. There would be better days. I had known people who had needed special help at the hospital. It was an important first step to ask for it. As the Spirit led, I was also able to suggest that their real victory had come as they turned their lives over to Jesus.
She turned directly toward me, looked me straight in the eyes and gave a telling and abrupt nod of the head.
We were at the Centre. The lights were on. She said her thanks. I wished her well. A seed had been planted.
I am reminded of what the prophet Habakkuk said:
15Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!