The Asking

We saw him in the rain.

He was pushing his bike up the hill, his thin arms outstretched as we passed in our car, laughing about something as our music played too loudly.

My eyes met my husbands from the warmth of our heated seats. He began to hunt for a place to turn around on the slushy 2 lane mountain highway.

We pulled up slowly beside him and I rolled the window down, the small dog in the basket on the back of his bike greeting us with a bark. There was a sign hanging from the old wicker, bold black letters tattooing the surface of the taped and re-taped cardboard:


“Hi” I started lamely, his eyes searching my face wearily. “We saw you as we were passing, and just wanted to see if you were alright.”

He watched me for another moment, his full gray beard dripping into his layers of wet clothes as our car idled on the cold empty highway.

“Well…” he started, his soft voice like an old rusty porch swing, “we’re just about out of steam here.”

There was a short pause as we studied each other. He reached out a weathered hand and scratched his dog on the head, water dripping into both eyes.

My heart jumped, higher, higher, until it was nothing but a throbbing lump in my throat.

“We have extra supplies with us. Could you use some?”

His long gray braids streamed rainwater slowly onto his chest as he nodded his head without speaking.

We pulled the car to the shoulder and stepped out onto the pavement. We’d covered about 1500 miles of open road, and the trunk of our car was piled high with gear. I had been praying for our eyes to be open and our hearts to be ready to stop the car. To take the detour. To get out of our comfort zone. I had been praying for opportunity, and here it was.

I grabbed our extra water jugs while my husband started sifting through the food bins, and I walked towards the man and his dog. His hands curled around the lid of his glass water bottle as he tried to unscrew it with his cold, uncooperative fingers.

The frosty mountain rain had seemed so cozy to me just a few hundred feet ago from behind the windshield.

I took a step closer and offered my hands, still warm from my car cocoon. He handed me the closed bottle, his kind eyes lowering to linger on his wet boots.

“I’m Randi. That’s my husband over there.” A hand shot out from the trunk and waved.

The man nodded.

“Have you traveled far?” I asked, hoping he would speak.

“Yes, very far.”

The plastic bags hanging from his handle bars were nearly empty, soaked through and hanging in frayed pieces. We began filling a canvas bag with essentials.

My mind was racing.

This quiet man was struggling. Tired, sore, wet and cold, it seemed like he had been out in the elements for weeks, maybe months. The closest town was miles away. There was snow in the forecast.

What was his story?

Growing up, my father had a saying: “do the ask.”  Throughout the years it echoed in my mind as an encouragement, a challenge. A challenge to spend less time dancing around the leaves and to seek the roots of those around me instead, showing my own veins as I parted the soil. I wanted to truly see people who needed help, who needed hope.To extend the love that had been extended to me. To be brave enough to ask if I could pray for a stranger in need. To get to the point of asking after their heart. I wanted Jesus to lead me to these opportunities. I longed for them as much as I feared them, but I prayed for opportunities nonetheless. Could this be one of them?

I walked beside his bicycle and offered the freshly filled new bag. He took it from me gently with a stiff hand and began to tie it tightly to his handlebars, pulling away the old plastic scraps.

He patted his companion on his wet scruffy head and looked at us, his shy dark eyes lighting in a slow smile. “Thank you.”

We all stood in the freezing mountain air looking at each other.

5 seconds. 10 seconds. 15 seconds.

This was my chance and I knew it.

My chance to offer my veins.

My chance to part the soil.

My chance to ask…something.

Open your mouth, Randi.

Say something.

Say something.

“Safe travels.”


The rain turned to snow as we continued down the road. I replayed the scene in my head again and again.

He obviously didn’t want to talk, I told myself.

He wouldn’t have wanted a conversation with a stranger in the rain, I reasoned.

Maybe those things were true. The thing is, I’ll never know.

Because I left.

I had so much more than just food and water to offer to a weary traveler. I had hope. Maybe he had it too, but maybe he didn’t. I’ll never know now.

I’m a naturally quiet person who shies away from awkward confrontations, yet my heart yearns for situations with meat. Conversations with depth. Exchanges that are more than just a quick hello and goodbye. This life is too short, too important, too precious and beautiful and outrageously fleeting to just be surface level. And so I’ve been praying for the awkward. For the hard. For the uncomfortable. And yet when I’m given just that, I choke on the words and I drive away, choosing the safe words instead and regretting it still, a month later as I sit at home – wondering where Leo and Max are today.

Two years ago, I missed another shot.

Though my intentions are good, they’ll ultimately mean nothing if I can’t open my mouth. If I can’t overcome my own shyness, my own fears of being “strange” to a stranger I’ll probably never see again. If I can’t do the ask. And so, dear readers, I tell you about it. I dare to hope that you’ll feel my regret in the words on this screen, that you’ll think of the rain soaked man and his dog on the side of the mountain the next time the words begin to die in your mouth as opportunity stands dripping in front of you.

I had the chance to extend hope on a cold mountain, and I missed it. If you glimpse a moment, don’t hesitate like I did, like I’ve done too many times in the past.

Sometimes your window lasts 15 seconds on a 2 lane road before it’s gone.

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