The couple was on a mission, pure and simple, although those who passed by on the route were unaware. Had they been aware, those who had passed may have been more inclined to stop and offer the two their assistance. In spite of their almost-too-ordinary appearance, Earl and Lorinda were far from an ordinary couple who stood on the side of a truly ordinary state route. Instead, Earl and Lorinda were angels sent to discover whether there were those in the world who would be concerned enough with the lives of others to reach out and help someone in need.
Now at late dusk with the late fall Colorado chill whipping about, Lorinda's earlier optimism faded, with Earl's following closely behind. Both Lorinda and Earl understood that they were chosen to stand beside this route, especially because it lead into an area heavily populated with those who professed to be devout Christians. Neither thought that they would have needed to stand by the now seemingly deserted Route 23 as long as they had.
Earl broke the hour long hush that had fallen upon both of them. "Lorinda, would you like the coat? You're shivering," he said as he bent to pick up the kelly green jacket that was draped over the suitcase beside him. "Thank you," she replied as he helped her put the jacket on. "It is really getting cold out here. Do you think we should go back?" she asked hopelessly, finally letting go of the last glimmer of optimism she had about their assignment. "We have been here since early this morning and nobody has even stopped to ask if we need assistance." Earl replied, "I really don't want to give up on them, Lorinda. There must be one person here somewhere who would be willing to care enough for other people to stop and help. Let's wait a little while longer. I know we've been here since this morning, but I just can't believe that no one cares." Lorinda nodded a slow yes, hoping that somehow her growing suspicions about people were wrong.
The sun gave its final dance of light, then slipped below the horizon. A greater chill swept through the air. Both now stood huddling and shivering in the cold Colorado night, waiting for an act of mercy to prove their newly forming expectations wrong. Silence again prevailed the conversation.
Earl pondered again, as he had many times earlier in the day, about the contents of the small green suitcase that they had been given, which now rested on the ground behind Lorinda. They had been told not to open it and that they were to give it to the appropriate person. Earl had no idea who this suitcase was to be given to, the only clue being a large tag on it that simply said "To Hudson." They were both told that they would know who to give it to when the time came. He wondered how he could give it to someone when no one even stopped. So far they had no contact with anyone all day.
Finally Lorinda turned to Earl and said "I think we should head back. It's no use. People have lost compassion for each other. This will be a sad report to give." Just as the last word slipped out of her mouth, bright headlights pierced the dark curtain of night that had fallen. The car was still in the distance but it clanged and clunked with loud exasperations.
As the rickety car approached, it slowed and then paused beside the couple. Startled, both felt their once dashed hopes resurrected. The haggard old man behind the wheel of the rusty '98 Cutlass rolled down the window and shouted to the couple as loudly as his raspy voice would let him. "Do you folks need some help? It's getting awful dark out here and cold, practically freezing." Earl and Lorinda both dashed to the window. She replied "O, thank God! Yes, we need a ride to Huberton. Would you be so kind as to take us there?" The man replied somewhat bitterly at first, "Well, I don't believe in that "God-business," then hesitated. After a few seconds he continued "...but, I suppose it would be no problem to take you in to town. You look like honest folks who could use some help. Come on, get in," he finished.
Lorinda and Earl looked at each other in amazement. Neither ever expected a man who didn't even believe that God existed to be the one who would stop and assist them. They expected a fine upstanding Christian to be the one to pick them up. An atheist is the last person they had in mind. They put both suitcases into the front seat and then got in the back.
Huberton was a few miles away, so Earl and Lorinda began to converse with the driver, who they learned, during the course of conversation, was named Hudson Johnson. Hudson was called an old opinionated codger by many who knew him, as stubborn and set in his ways as they come. Many also knew, though that in spite of this, he would help anyone in need. He was definitely a tough man to figure out.
In the back of their minds, Earl and Lorinda still wondered why this man didn't believe in God and yet could be so kind to complete strangers. It was especially amazing to Earl that a man like Hudson, who seemed bitter toward the world would stop and pick them up. Finally, Earl got up the courage to ask him, at the risk of both he and Lorinda being left back at the side of the road, "Hudson, why don't you believe in God?" Neither Earl or Lorinda expected the reply he gave. Instead, both of them expected a bitter reply or a brutal attack on the Christians who lived nearby.
After a moment of silence Hudson pulled to the side of the road. Earl thought that indeed he and Lorinda were soon being left to the roadside. Instead, he heard Hudson softly weeping. With a water-wavery voice he began to explain. "I was a Christian all of my life. I believed that Jesus had died for me and all of that bologna. I believed it all for over 60 years. What changed my mind about this whole God-thing was when my wife began to show signs of Alzheimer's. As she got worse I began to question God and His existence. How could a loving God let this happen to anyone? There just can't be a God. When my wife forgot who I was, that was it. I couldn't believe that God existed anymore. I would walk into the room and she would scream at me. Sometimes when she was calmer, I would ask her 'Do you remember me?' She would hiss a 'no' along with a string of profanity. It hurt so much that the one person I had loved so much and the one person who had, at one time, loved me, now didn't even remember me."
"Do you understand now?" Silence. "I said do you understand?" he choked through his tears.
The silence was incredibly thick. He looked up through the rearview mirror into the back seat. There was no one there. He turned and looked. Again, no one was there. He couldn't believe that they could have just vanished into thin air. He hadn't heard the car doors open or close. As he turned forward again, bewildered, his eye caught hold of the small green suitcase which lay on the seat beside him. The other suitcase was gone. A large tag on the suitcase that sat beside him read simply "To Hudson." He crept toward the suitcase and opened it. He gasped at what he saw inside. The first thing he picked up was the old dusty Bible he had been given as a young boy and then thrown away after his wife's death, after he had given up on faith. He opened the Bible to the place where an angel shaped bookmark had been inserted. There he found the passage that had earlier influenced him greatly as a young man, highlighted.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?' When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?' When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
Tears flooded his eyes. He never forgot the lesson he learned from that passage. Even after his wife's death, he always helped those in need. It only seemed right.
The other item in the suitcase was a small plain envelope. He opened it gingerly. Inside was a ordinary piece of notebook paper with only a few words written on it. It read:
I remember you. Do you remember Me?
I love you.
There was no signature except a symbol, but Hudson knew Who it was from. At the bottom of the page there was a simple cross drawn in crimson red.