Mile Marker 1,387: The End of Giving
The last thing you probably think about as you prepare to drive the Alaska Highway is how you can help people. But we’d like to propose that this is the first thing you consider. If you’ve ever dreamed of driving to Alaska you’ll have to make your way along long stretches of the desolate, yet beautiful road. This desolation and beauty can make for a most spectacular journey. But when you drive the Alaska Highway it can also become one of your worst travel fears.
The highway itself is a patchwork of nearly 1,387 miles that runs diagonal from Canada to Alaska. It stretches from Dawson Creek in British Columbia through the Yukon all the way to Fairbanks, Alaska. People drive the highway in either direction and for many reasons. The most basic reason is that it is the most direct land route between Canada and Alaska. But it has not always been this way.
A Brief History of the Highway
Because of Alaska’s location it was highly unaccessible for many years. While the US petitioned Canada to jointly build a highway that connected Alaska to the “Lower 48” states it was not until the advent of World War II that the road was actually built. The war in the Pacific prompted Canada and the US to work together to swiftly build the Alaska Highway such that the US could mobilize its western front. Canada, like most of the world at this time, knew what it would mean if the Allies lost and were helpful in the process.
Over time the Alaska Highway has seen the transportation of vast economic wealth and American dreams. Connecting Alaska with the Lower 48 meant that anyone could travel overland to Alaska. This, of course, prompted people of all kinds to pursue their dreams of the Alaskan wilderness. Chris McCanliss, a more recent dreamer, met his fate at the expense of his dreams.
Others, like us, want to journey through the wilderness without a fear of the worst happening to us along the way. This is why we should help people as you drive the Alaska Highway.
Help People as You Drive the Alaska Highway
We made a vow to ourselves as we stood at the “Mile 0” marker in Dawson Creek. Regardless of where we were or wanted to be in our drive, if we saw a vehicle on the side of the road we swore we would stop to offer help. This is a simple action. But for someone on the side of the Alaska Highway, this simple kindness could mean the difference between an inconvenience and an emergency.
It’s not likely that you’ll die if your vehicle breaks down along the highway. Depending on the time of year, the weather might be extreme. And while you are likely to see your fair share of bears along the drive it is highly unlikely you’ll meet your fate at the hands of a hungry grizzly bear. It is more likely that you will be inconvenienced a great deal. And, depending on where you break down, you could become a hazard to other travelers.
This is why we vowed to look out for others. And it is why we think you should seek to help people as you drive the Alaska Highway.
Assessing the Need
On our first day on the highway we came across seven vehicles on the side of the road. Five of those vehicles had already been abandoned. One even had a note on the window letting other travelers like us know that they were OK. Of the two vehicles that were occupied, one contained two men who were simply arguing over something and the other was a friendly couple who knew how to fix their breakdown.
Still we stopped. We stopped because it was the right thing to do. And it was what we said that we would do.
As we’re learning, sometimes the giving is just a matter of grooming the heart. You commit to a thing like helping others and, whether you ever find someone to help or not, that commitment is a change in your spirit. There is not much we could do for someone broken down on the side of the road. We’re not mechanics (though I’ve played one many times both for our own truck and for others on the road!). We don’t have the space to give anyone a ride. We’re pretty much only prepared to stop and spread good cheer.
But committing to helping others is an action in and of itself. It just takes place in the heart.
The End Of Giving
We stopped every day for every vehicle on the side of the Alaska Highway. Not one time did we ever help anyone in any meaningful way. But this did not bring about the end of giving in us. Instead it hardened our resolve to continue to find simple ways like this to help people.
It also gave us practice. In doing the little things, we believe we are more prepared for the bigger ones – if ever there is a way to differentiate between “little” and “big” giving. We believe that if we can be faithful with the “little” then one day we will be entrusted with the “big.”
We are on the move, constantly, and we found purpose pulling over on the side of the road to help anyone and everyone in need. It’s a great metaphor in life – driving this long, lonely yet beautiful highway. You may start it alone, and want to spend it alone, but sooner or later there comes a need, by you or someone you approach, and suddenly the lonesome highway becomes a community of love or, if you can’t lend yourself to love, of simple human kindness.
There is no end in giving for us. This is true on the Alaska Highway and it will continue to be true as we travel toward Argentina…
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