Our community thought Val was odd. Black lips and nails, brightly striped knee highs, black skirt and coat, greasy graying hair straying in the wind, all she lacked was the pointed witches hat. Often mocked, sometimes feared, adults mostly ignored Val as she hobbled along the streets of our small town. She lived in the country, on the road to my house. This weird apparition stood, thumb outstretched, in wind, rain, snow or sun, hoping for a ride to town.
One cold rainy day, I had time. I’d left home early for my meeting hoping Val would be there, waiting and she was. She greeted me with, “Nice car! I like a Prius.” Then she looked into the back seat. “Your’s is dirty. You should clean it.”
“Boots on sale cheap at Zellers today. Thought I’d get a pair,” she said, as she hoisted her leg into the car. I glanced at her feet. Sure enough, they were wrapped in milk bags inside her boots. “I don’t take a ride with just anybody,” she said, as I pulled back onto the road. “Only good cars, and no men. It’s not safe to ride with men.”
I could only agree. We exchanged names and Val talked all the way to town. “I’m going to a meeting at my church,” she said. “You can let me off there.”
When I asked which church, she directed me to the opposite side of town. She didn’t ask if it would take me out of my way. Enthralled with this amazing personality, I obediently delivered her. Thus began an interesting relationship, almost friendship.
I chose to pick up Val, any time I saw her going and coming to town. She was odd, well unique would be a better word, and most interesting. We had lots in common, especially our commitment to the church, and our politics. I’m not sure. Within a year, I moved to a nearby town. Several years later, I read Val’s obituary in the paper. She had died in her little country house, discovered by the meter man one morning when he came to read the meter.
Sometimes I regret that I never offered friendship. I never moved beyond “the ride”. Val passed through my life leaving footprints on my heart. Did she want more from me. I’ll never know.
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up and asked Jesus…But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Luke 10:25-3