In this excerpt from her new memoir Faith and Other Flat Tires, Andrea Palpant Dilley shares a surprising experience with a hitchhiker that she will never forget.
From Faith and Other Flat Tires: Searching for God on the Rough Road of Doubt
One winter afternoon when I was twelve years old, my father picked up a hitchhiker. My two brothers were sitting with me in the back seat of our Plymouth Voyager van…
The hitchhiker looked sixteen or seventeen, a tall Scandinavian wearing blue jeans with big holes in the knees. It was thirty-five degrees out. He ducked his head and climbed into the van with us, and then my dad drove on. The ensuing conversation, which I will never forget, went something like this:
"These are my kids, Andrea, Ben, and Nate. My name's Sam. What's your name?"
"Donovan," the hitchhiker said.
"Oh, that's a good name." My father paused. "Have you ever heard of Amy Carmichael?"
"She was a Christian missionary to India who worked to save young girls from sex trade enslavement. The place where she worked was called Dohnavur, which is kind of close to your name, Donovan. So you have a good name, a name with Christian purpose."
In the hitchhiker's long pause that followed, I remember thinking, My father is out of his mind, preying on this young hitchhiker who wanted a ride and instead got a church sermon on Christian missionary history. I felt embarrassed in the same way I did when my dad prayed over our food in a restaurant and the waiter brought the ketchup while he was still praying.
Donovan rode with us for several miles until we reached the cut-off road to our house. After pulling the van onto the shoulder to let him out, my dad turned to my older brother, who was about the same size as the hitchhiker, and said, "Ben, why don't you give Donovan your jeans. It's cold out."