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hitchhiking

… commuting to work at age 10 …

Getting to work at a root beer stand can be a real challenge, especially when you are only 10 years old.

West Markum Street in Little Rock was residential on one side and the State Mental Hospital was on the other. The hospital grounds were very open with grassy hills. The walk to work was downhill – so not too bad – unless it was raining – plus I was excited to get to work. The eight blocks home, however, was hard. They were all uphill and I was tired from working.

Heading home one day I stuck out my thumb – I guess I had seen that in a movie. A lady stopped to offer me a ride. She asked how far I was going and why I needed a ride – I told her. When she dropped me off at the top of the hill, a half block from our home on Spruce Street, she suggested I not tell my mother about the ride as my mother might be upset.

You see, the driver was black. In truth, I had a hard time deciding whether to get in the car or not.

It was 1952 in Little Rock, Arkansas; the integration of Central High School would not happen until 1959, seven years later.

Me at age 10 in Little Rock, Arkansas. If we had not moved to St. Louis I would have been a member of Central High School, Class of 1959. with nine black fellow students, better known as the Little Rock Nine.

Me at age 10 in Little Rock, Arkansas. If we had not moved to St. Louis I would have been a member of Central High School, Class of 1959. with nine black fellow students, better known as the Little Rock Nine.

I was a white 10 year-old boy and she was a black woman.

Yet I was hitchhiking home and I was tired – I needed a ride.

I believe you should not ask for help and then not take it – you take the help – and you say, “Thank You.” There may be exceptions, but you get my point.

I think when you decide to ask for help, you should know whom you are asking and why. Are you just being lazy? Is it something you could do yourself? Are you asking a person who can really help you? Can you ask for help too often?

These questions are more than I considered at 10 years old, but as I got older and started to make more of my own choices I continued to ask myself these questions.

Did I make the right choice by accepting the ride from a stranger – near the State Mental Hospital? It was a different world in 1952, yes, but were we more trusting of people who were different then? I think not.

What about today? Do white folks have trouble accepting a ride from a black person? Do black people turn down rides from whites?

Do you pick up hitchhikers today – have you ever? Have you ever hitchhiked? What would make you not accept a ride?

In the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon, did you find the hitchhiking scenes scary or funny? They were scary to me.

As always, the conversation starts here.