The drive back from Galveston to Dallas is a long one. Maybe 6 hours. However, once past Houston, and until you reach the outskirts of Dallas, it's as easy as a long drive can be. Straight roads, little traffic. As they say, the job of a civil engineer in Texas is easy. Besides, we'd been on a cruise.
Just outside of Huntsville, Texas we had a blowout and had to pull over to the shoulder.
Despite cell phones, despite AAA ... it's not a great place to be sitting on the side of the road.
According to an article on NPR with statistics from Texas Department of Criminal Justice, The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Texas has the largest prison system in the U.S., with more than 150,000 prisoners behind bars - and the headquarter for all this is Huntsvile. There are 9 state prisons there, our Good Samaritan told us.
You wouldn't want to pick up a hitchhiker around there. Or, for that matter, to be 3 women stalled on the side of the road ... that stretched forward in a straight line, with nothing but grass and trees on the sides of the road for as far as we could see. Plus it was freezing cold.
Texas leads nation in the number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
Texas, California, and Florida have the largest death row populations. And where might they be? And, most disconcerting to us, every day, more than 150 men are processed, paroled and released from those Huntsville prisons.
Texas Prison Facts: at the end of 1999 --And so we sat.
- Texas led the nation with the largest number of people under criminal justice supervision - 706,600 people either in prison, on parole or probation.
- That's 5 percent of the adult population of Texas.
- African-Americans represent 12% of the Texas population, but make up 44% of the total prison and jail population.
- One out of every four adult black men in Texas is under some form of criminal justice supervision.
- The Texas prison population has tripled since 1990. It rose 61.5 percent in the last five years of the 1990s.
- The youngest man to be executed in Texas was 24; the oldest, 66.
- The Texas criminal justice system has grown so large that in July 2000, corrections officials ran out of six-digit numbers assigned to inmates, and
officially created prisoner number 1,000,000.
- More than one out of every five inmates in Texas prisons are serving time
for drug-related charges.
I pulled out my cell phone and Triple A card, glad to see it was still up-to-date, and placed the call. When a man appeared at my car window out of nowhere. A huge African-American man. In my rear view mirror I saw his red pick up truck. My sister meanwhile was telling me that someone was ... coming to help?
The man asked if I had a spare. I thought I did, and went to the trunk with him. Without a word, he pulled out all the luggage, then the spare and the jack and put it on. We started off. He said he would follow. Good thing. The spare went flat and a huge 18-wheeler careened to pass us on the right.
At this point he told me to get in the truck and we would go find a WalMart. He had been a long-distance truck driver until the gas prices went up, he told me, and now was driving things for another company ... but, he said, they wouldn't miss him for a while.
He showed his license to my family in the car, and off I went with him. At which point he got on the CD and told his buddies about what the 18-wheeler had done, and they all agreed that driver was "crazy" and "wrong." He then asked his CD buddies where a WalMart was, so he could help these stranded ladies. Finally came a reply. We went there and the Good Samaritan grabbed my blown tire, twirling it like a bracelet on his huge arm, and went directly into the garage to get us immediate service. Sadly, they had no tire my size.
Back in the truck and another call for a discount tire place. Back into their garage, and finally he talked an assistant manager into putting us before the 15 people standing in line waiting for tires. Back to the truck, back to my car, where he put the tire on. My family had kept the heater on and were doing OK. They also said a tow truck had pulled over and asked to help them.
In the truck, on the ride back, his wife called him on his cell.
"Why she call me all the time?" he asked me, or the wind.
At any rate I answered: "Because she loves you."
"I love her too," he replied. "I love her very much." And then came the story about the FIRST wife.
A little neuroscience ensued. She had gotten to him, he said, to where "I couldn't think. I had no brain. People would tell me something and I couldn't concentrate. She had my mind all messed up. They tell me and then they say 'ROBERT' and I don't know where I been."
"What was she doing?" I asked.
"Just all over the place," he said. "No common sense. That woman had no sense about her. She was book smart, but she was street stupid."
It followed that (he was in the military at the time), 'they' told him they couldn't give him a direct order, but they could give him an indirect order to send her back to the States.
"I'm not stupid," he said. "I can read between the lines."
It had now been 2 hours. And, to connect the dots - what is it that is ripe for the picking?
Oh, the goodness of life, I guess, and the goodness of people. So much we are hearing now about what's wrong with the US, and how awful it's all become, and how people just aren't the same, and they drive off without paying for their gas, and steal bathrobes from hotels, and how sad it is that everyone's autistic, or ADHD, or ABCDEFG ... and, well, the Huntsville thing.
But it's not true. It's not true that people are bad, no one has time to help, or that we are all going to hell in a handcart. And while 25% of Afro-American males in Texas may be under supervision, 75% of them are likely out there being good citizens and helping others.
This Santa Clause (it was Dec 22), this Good Samaritan, gave us two hours of his time, removed one tire and put on two, connected with a world of truck drivers who talked all day about how to help other people, beat out the tow truck driver who wanted to help, said he would pay for my tire if I couldn't ... and told me that he loved his wife.
Life is good. Life is sweet. It is ready to be plucked like that big, sweet, red apple. Just reach out for it. It's all good. And what isn't, and what messes up your mind, send it back to wherever it came from.
To order my new ebook, "Be the One You Have Been Wanting to Come," EMAIL ME.
And to play with the words a little, which we whole-brained people love to do ... WE DECIDED TO BE THE ONE WE WERE WAITING FOR.
On the trip, before and after, we:
- Gave our coconut monkey mug to a woman who wanted one for her grandbabies, but couldn't afford one.
- Helped someone find his brother's assisted-living facility.
- Let a woman use our cell phone to get her father to come get her.
- Tipped the handsome and charming Fernando most generously.
- Tipped ALL the service people who helped us.
- Soothed people who were afraid on the pitching and rolling ship.
- Lent our blanket to someone who was freezing in the Galveston terminal.
- Thanked people and told them we appreciated them.
- Talked nice.
- Observed good etiquette at table.
- Didn't pollute the ocean.
And many other things.
Why? Because it made us feel so good. Because it makes the world go 'round. Because you attract the big ole rough guys who tell you how much they love their wife, and to help others. Because we then create the sort of world we want to live in.