The Shopping Cart Man
A Parable for Our Time
They continued on their way, passing cars and being passed. It wasn't long before they came to another steep incline and Dad saw something rambling in front of him at a considerably lesser speed than his own.
"Oh, great," he groaned. "Another one."
His groan caught everyone's attention.
"Another what?" Luke asked with keen interest.
"Another of those mobile homes," Dad said. He emphasized the words "mobile homes" with a derision that made his newfound prejudice painfully clear.
"That's not a mobile home," Emma corrected. "It's an RV."
She was sitting behind her mother and was as curious as the rest of them to see what sort of driver inhabited this vehicle. She peered out her window as they approached, inspecting every detail of the rolling home away from home.
"Thanks for the clarification," Dad said. "I just hope this one's better than the last one."
"Just be polite, Frank," Joyce reminded him. "He's already moving over for you. You should be fine."
The whole family looked out their windows as Frank continued to catch up to the large, silver vehicle. It had a back door with a ladder next to it that led to the roof.
"Neat!" Emma shouted. "What's the ladder for?"
"For climbing up on the roof," Luke said as he plopped himself into the seat behind his father. "What do you think?"
Kenny looked at his brother for clarification. Luke just smiled smugly, waiting for the next question.
"What do they need to climb on the roof for, anyway?" Emma asked.
"To scrape off leaves, of course!" Luke said, rolling his eyes. "Sheese! What a nimrod!"
"Luke!" Mom said. "That isn't nice!"
"Yeah," Dad added. "Emma's never even been hunting before!"
"Huh?" the kids said in unison.
Frank laughed to himself while his wife glared at him and said, "Frank! That doesn't help."
"Oh, all right," Dad looked at his kids in his rearview mirror and explained, "Nimrod was the name of a mighty hunter in the book of Genesis."
"Huh?" Luke repeated, while Kenny shrugged, confused.
"Nimrod was the great‑grandson of Noah, in the Bible..." Dad began to explain, but was interrupted.
"Hey!" Emma said rather suddenly. She had spied a round, red sticker pasted to the back left‑hand corner of the RV that they were now passing. It had a smiling face of a man with a halo and three words, which Emma read.
"What's the 'Good Sam Club'?" she asked.
"The what?" Luke asked crowding up to Emma's window and forcing her to sit back in her seat.
"Stop pushing!" she responded. "It's my window!"
"What was that?" her mom coaxed.
"I asked, 'What's the Good Sam Club?'" she repeated.
"Why do you ask?" her mom continued.
"Because that RV has a sticker on the back that has a smiling face and it says, 'Good Sam Club' on it," Emma explained. "And, the face has a halo over it."
"Oh, that," Frank said. "That's a club that people who own RVs can join."
"Fraank!" Joyce began to interrupt again, wanting to cut off another of his sarcastic tales.
"It is!" Frank defended himself. "It's a club that's been around for ten years or so. Anyone who has that sticker on their RV is a member of the club. If they see someone with that sticker on an RV pulled over to the side of the road with some sort of problem, someone else with a sticker like that is supposed to pull over and help them. That way everyone in the club watches out for everyone else."
"Really?" Joyce asked cautiously, sensing that his story actually seemed plausible.
"Really!" Frank said.
"How do you know so much about RVs?" Luke asked.
"Oh," Frank replied with the beginnings of a grin, "you have to know these things when you're a dad!"
Joyce rolled her eyes at this one.
"But, why do they call it the 'Good Sam Club'?" Emma continued.
They were slowly pulling past the RV and Emma looked up at the driver's window. A very friendly looking old man was behind the wheel. She waved at him and he smiled and waved back. Kenny saw him too and pumped his right arm the way he loved to do for truckers. The RV driver obliged him and gave two quick toots on his horn.
"Good gravy!" Frank said with a start. "Now, what's HIS problem? What IS it with RVs?"
"He was just being nice," Emma blurted out quickly. "Kenny asked him to honk, so he did!"
"Huh? Oh," Frank said, calming down. Speaking into the rearview mirror he added, "Well, don't do that on RVs, Kenny. Just trucks."
Kenny nodded sheepishly and then looked out the rear window. He waved to the old couple who were slowly falling behind them. They smiled and waved back.
"You haven't said why it's called the 'Good Sam Club'," Emma reminded her self‑proclaimed omniscient father.
"I believe that stands for 'Good Samaritan'," her mother pointed out before her dad had a chance.
"Why would they call it a 'Good Samaritan Club'?" the confused girl asked.
It seemed that the more her questions were being answered, the more confused she was becoming.
"Well, it's taken after the Good Samaritan from the Bible story," Frank put in. "You remember the story, don't you?"
"Yeah, I think so," Emma said.
"You think so?" Dad asked.
"It was like this," Mom said. "Jesus was asked by some men what the greatest commandment was. Jesus told them that the first great commandment was to love God, and the second great commandment was to love your neighbor. When someone asked who their neighbor was, Jesus told them the story of the Good Samaritan."
"Back in those days," Dad added, "the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. They didn't trust each other and they couldn't get along."
"Like the Americans and the Russians?" Luke asked.
"Something like that," Frank acknowledged. "Go on, Joyce."
"Well," she continued, "one day there was a Jewish man walking along a road in the middle of nowhere. Some robbers caught him, beat him up and stole everything he had. Then they left him in the roadside to die. A Jewish Rabbi came along and saw him, and passed by on the other side of the road, so he wouldn't have to help him. Then someone else came by and did the same. Finally, a Samaritan – someone who was supposed to hate Jews, and was hated by the Jews - came by and saw the man.
"He knelt down and gave him water to drink. He bound up his wounds and put him on his donkey. Then he took him into town and found an inn. He gave the innkeeper money for the man to stay there and told the innkeeper that if the man spent more, he would come the next week and pay it for him."
"Wow!" Luke said from the back. "Free money!"
"That's not the point of the story!" Frank corrected.
"Yes," Joyce said. "The point is that we are all everyone's neighbor and when we see someone in need, we should stop and help them."
"Gee!" Emma said with wide eyes. "Are there still Good Samaritans around?"
"No, silly!" Luke said, pushing on her shoulder. "That's just something in the Bible!"
"We can ALL be Good Samaritans," Dad said, trying not to let the lesson be lost.
"Yes," Joyce added. "Anyone who does a good deed can be a Good Samaritan."
"And, you don't even need a sticker," Emma said with a contemplative smile.
The trip wore on. Every 30 minutes or so, Luke would hop from the back seat into the middle seat with Emma. She, in turn, would complain about his feet kicking her book. He would point out that he had every right to be there. His mother would back up the claim, but then add the warning that he needed to be considerate. He'd stay for awhile and then, getting bored, pile back into the rear seat just in time to wake up Kenny.
It was nearly half past noon as they approached a sign welcoming them to Reno. Frank looked through his mirror and was both pleased and relieved to see that all three kids had fallen fast asleep. Emma was stretched out in the middle seat, with her book dropped to the floor.
Kenny was lying in the space between the middle and rear seats. Thankfully, he had finally fallen asleep there. It was that odd, small opening that was formed when the two seats were pulled up into their sitting positions. It was never meant to be a seat, but Kenny liked to climb into it. His little rib cage was just small enough to fit between the two sides, as long as he didn't breathe in too deeply. He had a pillow behind his head and his feet were propped up on his mother's makeup case.
Frank concluded Luke was sleeping, laid out on the rear seat, by the mere fact that he couldn't see him, or, even better, hear him. He was certain that if Luke was awake, he would have either been bounding over the seats again, been in the process of telling more corny jokes, or simply be poking his brother. Even Joyce's head was nodding.
As glad as he was for this peaceful moment, he knew it couldn't last. He needed gas, and they all needed food. If they didn't stop in Reno, who knew how far they'd have to go?
"We're entering Reno," he said softly to Joyce.
"Oh, good," she replied, trying not to sound too sleepy.
She looked outside, blinking her eyes as she tried to get her bearings.
"Should we let the kids sleep, or wake them up?" he asked.
Looking back and then turning to her husband, she said, "Oh, let's let them slee– "
She was cut off by a loud voice in the back shouting, "Hey! We're in Reno! This is Reno, isn't it?"
At this, two other sleepy heads slowly bobbed to the surface. Emma asked if what she'd heard was true.
"So much for sleeping," Frank smiled to his wife.
Kenny nudged Luke and nodded his head with a determined, questioning look. Luke always seemed to know what was on Kenny's mind. Because of this, he was his self‑designated interpreter. It helped them form a bond that was even closer than most brothers.
"How much farther to Grandma's house?" Luke asked.
"Oh, for good grief," Dad fumbled. "We just barely got started!"
"Grandma lives in Oklahoma, Kenny," Mom replied more soothingly. "Reno is in Nevada. We've only gone to one state so far. Oklahoma is still three more states away. It will take a couple of days still."
"Oh," Luke said uncomprehendingly. "Well, tell me when we get there!"
"I will!" Joyce promised.
Shifting the topic to more current events, Frank asked, "Food or gas first?"
"FOOD!" was the enthusiastic reply by the hungriest voices in the car.
"Gas?" Frank mocked. "OK, but I thought you were hungry."
"We said 'FOOD!'" the kids vigorously countermanded.
"Frank," Joyce said, "don't taunt them!"
"OK, food it is," he laughed.
©2006, 2012 by Douglas V. Nufer
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