You pull into the services on the northbound M1 for a coffee and a sandwich, then notice the petrol gauge. From the pump you see a figure by the side of the building. The cardboard sign he is holding reads ‘M1 North’. He is wearing a combat jacket and baggy, checked trousers. His hair is shorn on the top and sides, but left long at the back. He has a full rucksack, a carrier bag and a battered guitar case. What would you do?
For me there was no dilemma. Having hitch-hiked for many years, many years ago, my response was already made. Back in my youthful years, I made a promise to myself that if/whenever I had my own car, I would always ‘return the favour’ for the lifts I received both in the UK and abroad.
So introductions were made, the luggage was loaded and Artur and I continued north. Unlike the traffic, the conversation flowed freely. Artur talked passionately about his homeland, Poland and the issues it was facing. He was also eloquent about the many other countries he had travelled through. The subject matter of our discussions was eclectic: from music to literature, politics to racism, beliefs to vegetarianism. This latter subject arose from the sight of a wagonload of carcasses that were strewn across the gridlocked carriageway opposite, prompting Artur to comment, “If the walls of the slaughterhouses were made from glass, then surely more people would turn away from eating meat.”
We talked about priorities and the choices relating to work/life balance…the importance of living as if you were going to die tomorrow, while learning and dreaming as if you were going to live forever. We talked about the need to consider the journey, not just the destination. This brought to mind the work of Dave Hulston and the guiding questions:
Who are we?
Where are we and where have we come from?
Where are we going?
How are we going to get there?
Artur talked about the wisdom of the Dalai Lama and reminded me that there are many good people in the world, contrary to the messages of despondency and negativity spread by certain sections of the media. This brought to mind, the film, ‘Pay it Forward’ featuring Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel-Osment, which I recommended to Artur.
In some ways, Artur reminded me of my younger self and our chance encounter means I now need to reconsider the line, ‘I am an optimist at heart, my cynicism is simply a result of confrontation with reality’.
At Junction 29, we said our farewells. Artur clambered out of the car onto the hard shoulder before continuing his journey. So, if ever you see a traveller, I urge you to lend a hand. You never know, you may be reminded about who you once were, what you have become and what you could yet be.