The Red Bag Mystery and the Faceless Stranger

Introduction: In my last post, The Journey of Life, I spoke of the excitement of travelling in a RV across the country for the birth of my third grandchild, Ezra. In this crazy, befuddling covid-world, we don’t know where our journey will take us…but I am so glad for what my journey taught me.

We left my daughter, Hannah, her husband, Jon and Ezra with huge hugs and some tears. As we all know in this current moment, it isn’t easy to know when you will physically be with those who live far away.

We traveled the race way from LA through Las Vegas with cars weaving through lanes at more than 90 miles an hour. Through Utah’s mountain ranges, a calming effect after the raceway. When we got to Utah’s eastern border, we spent an afternoon in Arches National Park. The rock formations formed through millions of years of water, ice, extreme temperatures, and underground salt movement are truly breathtaking. It makes you ponder your place in this world.

Our campground that night was in Grand Junction, CO. Then next morning we performed our daily disconnect of water, electrical power, and sewage dump. By this point in the journey, we felt like we were becoming RV’ing pros. With everything locked up we hit the road for another beautiful drive through the mountain ranges of Colorado. Several hours into our drive, just outside of Vail, my phone rang. I looked at the number 970 area code.  Without a name. I almost didn’t answer it. But I did…


“Is this Hillary?” asked the unknown voice asked.

“Yes,” I said, fully expecting someone to launch into a telemarketing spiel.

“Are you missing your red bag?”

Red bag. I thought and immediately reached around to find my red bag that contained my reading material.

Before I could answer the boisterous voice at the other end said, “Does 3300 Gettysburg…”

He had my full attention now. I was really listening. This unknown person knew my address.

“May I ask your name?” I inquired.

“Jim,” came the response.

“Jim who?” I asked calmly, wanting to meet this faceless stranger.

Let me unmask the faceless stranger, Jim Hester. Jim found my red rollaboard on the side of the road in Clifton, UT on his way to harvest pumpkins from the pumpkin patch.

I asked Dan to pull over. I trotted to the storage area under the camper. The locks had jarred loose and sure enough my red rollaboard was not there. It had fallen out of the RV unbeknownst to Dan or me. Maybe we weren’t quite the RV pros we thought we were.

Jim asked me if I would be coming back his way to pick up my bag. I quickly began to calculate in my head – what was in my red rollaboard and what was in my duffle inside the camper. Could I make it home without the missing contents? I glanced at Dan and was not prepared to add 6 hours to our drive (3 backwards and then 3 to get back to our current location).

I asked Jim if there was a FedEx location in his area and, if so, would he be willing to take the bag to a FedEx location and ship it to me. I explained I have a FedEx account and they will package it and bill the costs to me. Jim replied he could do that in a couple of days, so I asked him if could text or email him my address and account information.

“Nope, I’m a simple guy I don’t have a smart phone and I don’t have email.” We exchanged the information we each needed. I admit that I held my breath a bit, wondering if Jim would follow through. Would he lose the number on a piece of paper? In my short conversations with Jim, he shared his love of beer any time of day…so I wasn’t quite sure how things would turn out.

A couple of days later my phone rang. It was Jim. “I’m at the FedEx store. They’re only letting one person in at a time. It will be a while.” I thanked Jim for all of his time and trouble and asked him to call me with a tracking number once he was done. I think it took a lot out of Jim to be in the “city” to do this, and he probably took some time to have a beer or two when he finished at FedEx.

He did call several hours later, to give me the tracking number. And sure enough, my bag showed up. My well-worn red rollaboard made it safely home in this crazy COVID world thanks to the kindness of a stranger.

Many others passed my bag on the side of the road in the several hours that it sat there. Jim pulled over, took the time to call, and he hung in there as our cell phone coverage faded in and out while we drove through the mountains, and went out of his way for a faceless stranger.

At a time when we’re days away from a contentious election, our COVID 19 numbers are heading in the wrong direction and social unrest continues to concern us, we need to realize and recognize kindness – especially kindness from a faceless stranger.

What I take away from this is the need for all of us to keep in mind there is more that connects us than divides us. And there is more we can all do to bring us all together – large or small gestures, a quick smile, a handwritten thank-you. You never know how one person reaching out to another person, can change an outlook in this strange journey of life and the detour we are all currently traveling.