Blue Highways Journey – Episode #19

Adam was disappointed with the recent start to his blue highways journey. The highway journey led to dying towns where storefronts were closed. There seemed to be few people around. He wondered how anyone made a living in this area.

As he was driving away from this third town, he saw an African American woman and her two children walking the road. With a suitcase in hand, it seemed obvious that they were moving on. Adam stopped and offered them a ride, which they gladly accepted. The woman’s name was Moxie, a nickname that gave an indication of her spirit.

Adam told them about his blue highways journey and welcomed Moxie and her children to ride with him as long as they wanted. Moxie gladly accepted: “I just want to find a place where I and my children can feel accepted.”

For the next several days, the journey didn’t look promising. In fact, they had to spend many nights sleeping in their car. When they did find a place to eat, they became the subject of stares. Adam wondered if he was going to have to move away from the blue highways. The only reason that Adam didn’t give up was that he really enjoyed talking with Moxie and her children.

After 12 days of what seemed to be a tour of what America was like in the Depression era, they entered a town that offered promise. In the middle of nowhere was this town that was thriving. There was a vibrant downtown with a mix of restaurants, shopping, and other amenities. In fact, Adam was impressed by the mix of cultures that he saw.

They decided to stay a few days and soak in the spirit. As Adam was reading the weekly paper, he began to get a clue about the community’s vibrancy. The paper was filled with tributes to Hattie Wilson, who had just passed away. It was clear that Hattie was the driving force behind the town.

The tributes were touching and the authors of the tributes each had their own story to tell about how they were touched by Hattie. It was clear that Hattie’s accepting spirit was at the core of the community. She was an enabler for those who wanted a better life, many of them who traveled great distances to do so. She was a connector who helped those who were new to the community to get to know those she had helped in the past.

Adam, Moxie, and the children decided to attend the funeral for Hattie. As they entered the church, they were amazed to see that the pews were filled. There was a true racial and ethnic mix in every pew. The stories that were told were perhaps the most joyful stories that Adam had ever heard.

As they left the church, Moxie hugged Adam and said: “I’ve found my new home.” Adam was both pleased and sad. He had grown very fond of Moxie and her children, but he realized that they needed some permanence in their lives. Adam decided to stay until Moxie found a job and a place to live. As they said goodbye, Moxie promised to keep in touch.

As he returned home, Adam reflected on the accepting culture of the community. Hattie had been the catalyst of his awareness of the need for that acceptance, but it seemed that acceptance grew from a vision of what might be rather than a fear stoked by hatred of anything new. Adam thought that Hattie’s passing, while a loss for the community, would not impact the accepting culture. She had planted the seed that would continue growing.

The experience was an affirmation for Adam of something that had guided his career: It Just Takes One. Making a difference is something that each person must commit to, but few do. He spent the rest of the trip home thinking about what it would take to create more Hatties in the nation.

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“If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn. …If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive. … If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident. …If a child with lives with acceptance, he learns to love.”
– Dorothy Nolte (writer and family counselor)

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