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  • On a warm fall day, I drove into town to run some errands. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man on the freeway with a small dog. I thought it seemed sad, this man and his dog, trudging along the side of the highway. It was nearing 100 degrees, and both the dog and man looked haggard. It was rare to see travelers on this desert road, and I could not imagine their destination.

    As I drove home, I saw the man and dog nearing my house. Again, the disparity of his situation overcame me, and conviction hit me like a sucker punch to the stomach. I turned around and drove towards him, asking him if there was anything he needed. He was in his late 30's, with a small bag, and a puppy. The puppy was a black and white Chihuahua mix, with a big pink heart shaped tag on her collar; the tag reflective of her owner's soul. The man said no, and that he was fine, but thanked me for stopping. I knew it was 60 miles to the next town, and it was treacherous terrain. I asked him if he at least had dog food and water.
    He tilted his head slightly. "No, I guess I could use some water."

    I went home to get bottles of water, but again felt the sucker punch. I had an overwhelming compulsion to not only get him water but to ensure he had some supplies for his trek into the rugged desert, where it was cold at night, and scorching during the day. I went into the garage, and grabbed a sleeping bag, and a back pack that had been my sons when he was in a Wilderness Program. Inside the pack I put bottles of water, some of my own dog's food, and 20.00.

    I drove back, and he was standing there, patiently, with his puppy in his arms.
    "I have a sleeping bag and back pack, do you want these?" I inquired.
    He started trembling a little, and nodded. "I am walking from Phoenix to Spokane Washington. I had everything on my bike, but my bike got 2 flats in Flagstaff and I had to abandon all my supplies. I have nothing."
    I just looked at him, with his arrow of truth puncturing my heart. He had been working as a ranch hand in Phoenix and needed to get back home to his landscape business in Spokane Washington.
    "Do you know that the next town is not for 60 miles?" I asked.
    He stared at me, "No".
    "That gas station right over there is the last one you will see until you get into Kanab Utah." I said as I pointed over the hills.

    I picked up his adorable puppy.
    He was so concerned about her, "Why do you think her nose is so dry?" He said, leaning over her to give her a kiss.
    "It is just the desert sand, wind and dry heat. Her nose is probably just chapped." I said, wiping her face with my hand.
    He grinned, "But now I have this backpack I can put her in it so she doesn't have to walk all those miles."
    I smiled. A genuine deep satisfaction came over me. I told him to be safe, and use the 20.00 to buy more water at the gas station, he would need it.
    He thanked me, and walked away, towards the setting sun.

    I paced for hours trying to get re-grounded in reality. Where were his parents? Where were his friends? I was so touched by him for not giving up in Phoenix, but for having the tenacity to walk back to where he knew there was work. All the way through Arizona, Utah, Idaho until he got home to Spokane. I was so thankful to have been able to help him on his journey, yet in a way I worried if he would get there.

    The man in the desert still remains in my thoughts. Now that I, too, am in Washington, I glance from time to time at various people, hoping to see that man re-assuring me that he made it.
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