In the short time of twenty-five years an entire cultural phenomenon has disappeared in America. I grew up seeing hitchhikers on the road in California. I'm not old enough to be a real hippie, I didn't graduate from High School until 9 years after the "Summer of Love," but still in 1976 I could stick my thumb out, and hitch a ride to the beach.
I didn't begin to attend church for another 4 years. When I did attend church I remember discussions with friends who felt guilty for not picking up hitchhikers. This was fairly common to talk about after a church service, and in fact in came up in an occasional sermon late as the early 80's.
How is it that a culture which once freely offered rides with little fear and great hospitality lost the institution of hitchhiking in a short 25 years?
People say that this is due to society growing more dangerous. I am not sure that people are significantly more dangerous than they were in 1967, 1976, or 1980. Perhaps the release of the HBO series The Hitchhiker shown from 1983 to 1991 was instrumental in creating fear through its chilling tales, as well as the 1986 movie The Hitcher. Maybe a few real life examples like the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders, or a few urban myths about hitchhikers (like the hairy armed hitchhiker) helped kill the practice of standing by the roadside, and thumbing a ride.
I for one am saddened by the loss of this simple, and noble institution of the Hitchhiker. He has gone the way of the Hobos who ran the rails from one side of the country to the other.
At some point hitchhiking became an anti-social behavior, and consequently most of the hitchhikers were anti-social individuals. Has it therefore become a self-fulfilling prophecy that hitchhiking has become more dangerous?
I wonder what hope such a fearful society has in passing love from person to person. The 60's brought freedom and the "Summer of Love." How is it that since then society has grown more sexual, less loving, and less trusting?
My desire to share God's love means I need to find a way to develop relationships of trust in a society of growing mistrust. Have I got my thumb in wrong place thinking that it might still be possible?