I met Angie yesterday. She was walking dejectedly down the highway with a big, baggy purse over her shoulder, the color dull, like her whole aura. After a moment I stopped and backed up. Rolled the passenger window down. “Need a ride?” I asked. Her voice was so low and muted I couldn’t hear her reply, but she opened the door and got in. “Where ya going?” I asked. Her voice was still so low, with absolutely no projection, that I understood not one word of what she said.
She pointed out a road about a half mile down. I turned onto it and took her to a set of old trailers with cars in the yard and the porch light on. I waited to see if anyone would come to the door. They didn’t. Then she asked if I could take her home. I was happy to hear she had one, or at least the semblance of one. She said it was down near the school.
I asked her name. Angie. She asked if I lived by myself. No, I told her. I’m married. That seemed to take a moment to sink in. I’ve met so many young women and older young women, who seem to have no conception of a documented commitment, as well as a heart commitment, between a man and woman. They live from pillar to post. They look lost and estranged. And so they are. Angie didn’t look like she was drunk or on drugs. Not even the smell of cigarette smoke hung about her. She was attractive in a down-beaten sort of way. Her dark hair looked natural and was styled in a cute short cut, although it could have been a self-style. Her clothes looked decent enough, although very much in need of washing, as did she. How far she had come on that highway, or from what circumstances, she never said.
She asked what I did and I just told her about how I loved tracing family history, and asked her last name. She told me. She asked intelligent questions when I could comprehend what she said. She asked me how do you go about it? I told her short basics. I told her you start with yourself, your birth date, where you were born, then work back to your parents and grandparents, writing down all their basic information. I asked if her family talked about family. She turned her head away and mumbled something incomprehensible. I took that as a definite no, and not much in the way of “family”.
My heart broke for her. So many of the younger generations are lost because they are rootless, coming from more in the way of a copulation than parentage. They have no conception of God, of values, of anything requiring personal responsibility, because they were taught none. Society doesn’t teach it anymore. In fact, if you espouse values or responsibility you can get sued. And loving your neighbor as yourself takes on a whole different meaning. If some of the children who were bused to our church are any example, they not only were not taught these things — they had never even heard of Jesus (except maybe as a curse), and had no inkling of discipline or principle. I sometimes feel we have feral children growing up who would have been better off raised by wolves.
When we got to the school she said it was on further and I heard the word “caution light”. I went on to the caution light which was a good way past the school. When we got to it, she said it was the next caution light. That also was a good ways further. But there she indicated a left turn. When we got on that road, she belatedly asked where I had been headed when I picked her up. I told her. She hesitated a moment. “That’s a long way out of your way,” she said in that soft, hesitant voice. At first I didn’t know what to say. Because it was a long way out of my way. I had already started to get irritated that the school was just the first of three widely separated points. But then a calmness stole over me, the way it does when God is speaking to your heart. And these words came to me, “If you can’t go out of your way for someone every once in while, what good are you?”
She didn’t say anything, just looked pensive and pointed to a dirt drive leading up to some more old raggedy trailers. A few pre-schoolers were outside looking more like un-cared-for urchins than loved children, though they were happily playing in their ignorance, apparently having known nothing else. “Do you have children?” I asked. She replied with just a simple and sad “no”.
A large scowling man looked our way from the untidy dirt yard. It was no welcome home look. At her request we stopped only half-way down the long drive. As she started to get out, I couldn’t leave without letting her know there was one person who cared what happened to her. “Angie,” I said, “God bless you.” She turned. “What’s your name?” she asked. I had forgotten to give her mine. “Linda,” I said. “Linda,” she repeated softly as she walked away toward that awful future. And I knew she would remember me, as I have very much remembered her. And wept.