A Long Ride Home

By Dan Champion
Michigan, USA

A Long Ride Home

At 11:30 p.m. on a cold snowy night in December in 1990, my wife and I received a phone call from a “girl” downtown. We were running what could be called a mission or outreach center. We extended a hand to the homeless, prostitutes and drug addicts in the inner city. We had approached this girl one wintry evening when we brought hot chocolate to the girls working on the street corners. The hot drinks were our “icebreaker” which allowed us to tell them we’d like to help them get off the street and return to a normal life.

The call came just as we were about to fall asleep. We had been really hoping that one of the girls we approached would actually call us. The caller was in her late teens. We were excited to have the opportunity to help her leave this life — so without thinking we drove down and picked her up.

That was when the catch came. Her “boyfriend” (also her pimp) wanted to go, too. Generally speaking, we tried to get kids away from not only the area, but also their circle of “friends” (pimps, other prostitutes, etc.) Against our better judgment, we took them both to her mother’s house in a city three hours away. The drive there and back was in one of the worst snowstorms that I’ve ever driven in — it was hard to see the road.

By the time we got back home, it was 5:30 a.m. and I had just enough time to take a shower and go to work. For years we never heard from her, and figured that we had just wasted our time. Without both good counseling and good follow-up help, most girls return to that lifestyle. We assumed that this had happened with her as well.

Over the years we told this story, saying if we had it to do over again, we we would neither pick them both up, nor take them so far away.

Just last week, 12 years later, this same girl walked into the store where my wife works. She recognized my wife immediately, hugged her and told her their story. She and her boyfriend had gotten married, have four children, and are an active part of their church. She has told many people about the snowy ride we all took so many years ago. Indeed, every time they drive in heavy snow they think of us.

My wife immediately called me at work to tell me this news. I was amazed to learn that the streets hadn’t swallowed up this young girl. We were so relieved to learn that she did not succumb to life on the street, as street life has claimed more girls’ lives than I can count.

For years, we thought that one night of lost sleep was just a loss. But now that we know the result — we know it was not a loss at all.

Originally published as HeroicStories #320 on 8 July 2002

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