July 19, 2008


Here’s a post from my fellow missionary Harry in Jerusalem that I wish I had written, from the parts about picking up hitchhikers, which I also frequently do with equally interesting results, to the ideas about challenge and risk, which I think is at the core of the mission experience.

Check ‘er out.

P.S. Actually, I have to say a little more. I, of course, have been indoctrinated with stories of how dangerous it can be to pick up hitchhiker yet I do it all the time here. What I’ve realized is that in a country as car-happy as the U.S. hitchhikers are a bit weird because the cultural standard is to own a car (or two or five or whatever). It takes a conscious and counter-cultural decision to forgo car ownership. I can think of only a couple of fully-employed people I’ve known who have made the decision not to own a car and that decision is notable and makes them seem vaguely, well, odd and praiseworthy in the I’m-glad-I’m-not-doing-that sense. (No offense, guys.)

Here almost no one owns a car and not many more even have licenses. (I think I read somewhere less than a quarter of the South African population knows how to drive.) Hitchhiking and taxi riding is just something people have to do. The people I pick up are frequently people who work hard - nurses, day labourers, etc. - and they just happen not to own a car. It’s not weird and it’s not unusual. It’s just the way it is when there’s a lot less money flowing around in an economy.

Also, I gender profile when I decide whom to pick up. I figure women are better bets than men. And I can’t help but racial profile.