“On a Country Road,” Ensign, June 2001, 64–65
As I drove along a country road in Indiana, I felt both thankfulness and great loneliness. I thought about the accomplishments of the week with my new job, fresh out of college—but then there was the loneliness as I was heading toward my empty studio apartment in Chicago. It was my first time away from home and family since my mission. My mind wandered back several months to the morning I had packed my car and left home. With everyone already at work or school, only my mother was there to give me last bits of encouragement and advice for living alone in Chicago. As I pulled out of the driveway, my mother stood in the doorway blowing kisses and trying to hold back tears.
“Get a grip,” I said aloud to myself. “I’m a 24-year-old man.” I thought about how I had come to Chicago and was awestruck with the size of the city. I had looked down from the 110th floor of the Chicago Sears Tower at one of the busiest intersections of freeway in the world, then out to see the Chicago-O’Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. More than seven million people lived in the greater Chicago area, I was told. Looking down at the thousands of cars, I imagined the individuals in each car and how God knew each one. Is it possible? I had wondered. How is it possible that He knows each of us?
My mind returned to the emptiness of my car and the country road, and I prayed for comfort. I told Heavenly Father I had spent two years on a mission testifying that I know He lives and knows each of us personally but that my heart was filled with loneliness and doubt. Did He know how terribly alone I felt?
As I prayed I noticed in my rearview mirror a big tractor-trailer following close behind me. I gradually slowed and pulled slightly to the right to allow him to pass. The driver sped up, and black smoke billowed out the vertical stacks as he pulled alongside my car. I glanced up to see him waving as he passed. Once in front of me, he slowed down and pulled to the right as I had done, inviting me to pass him now. This isn’t what I had in mind to keep me company, I thought.
As I accelerated and passed the truck, the driver waved again, and this time he blew his horn, startling me. I quickly put some space between us. But before I could react, there he was, alongside my car and waving again. This time as he passed me, he motioned for me to pull over.
The back of his truck now filled my entire windshield view. That’s when I noticed the bumper sticker: Happiness Is Family Home Evening. “Wait a minute,” I said aloud. “He must be a member of the Church, but how does he know I am?” I followed him to a shopping area, and he motioned to a fast-food place from his truck window. I glanced over at the familiar bumper sticker and smiled back in agreement. It was, after all, dinnertime and I was hungry.
“Hi, I’m Jake,” he said, extending his hand as we entered the restaurant. “I noticed the BYU sticker in your rear window and thought you might be a member of the Church,” he continued. “Thought you might like to grab something to eat.”
“You’re right, I am. And I’m hungry too,” I said. “My name’s Kelly. I saw your family home evening bumper sticker and thought you must be a member also.” He confirmed that he was. After ordering and filling our trays, we sat down at a small table.
“I’ve only been a member for a year,” Jake began. “All my life I felt there was a God who knew and cared about His children here on earth. But it wasn’t until I heard the plan of salvation that I gained a real knowledge of God’s love for each one of us.” Here was a complete stranger bearing his testimony to me. “When I came up behind you in my truck and saw your BYU sticker, I had an overwhelming feeling that I should meet you,” he said.
After a while, Jake said, “Can you imagine how different this world would be if everyone knew what we know: that God knows each one of us, loves us, and wants us to be happy?”
What a wonderful testimony, I thought as Jake explained that he and his wife were planning to be sealed in the temple later that month. My mind filled with thoughts of gratitude: toward Jake for sharing his testimony with me at a time when I needed it most; for the true Church of Jesus Christ, which makes friends and brothers out of strangers; for my family, who taught me the gospel; for my mission and the opportunity it gave me to share my testimony with others; for a loving Heavenly Father who knows and cares for each one of His children; and for good Latter-day Saints, like Jake.