Twenty years ago I drove a cab for a living. When I arrived at 2:30 am, the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances many drivers would just honk once, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on a taxi as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needed my assistance I reasoned to myself. So I walked in the door and knocked. "Just a minute" answered a frail elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her eighties stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pill box hat with a veil pinned on it just like someone out of a 40's movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.
The apartment looked like no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knick-nacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box with photos and glassware. She asked me to carry her bag and assist her to the cab. She took my arm and we walked slowly to the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness and I told her I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my Mother treated.
When we got in the cab, she gave me an address then asked me if I could drive through downtown. I explained it was not the shortest way, but she did not mind since she was in no hurry.....She was on her way to a HOSPICE!
I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw her eyes were glistening. She explained she had no family and the doctor said she did not have much time. I quietly reached over and turned off the meter and asked her which route she would like to take.
For the next 2 hours we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived as newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a
furniture warehouse that once was a ballroom where she had danced as a girl. Sometimes she would ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and she just sat staring into the darkness not saying a word. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon she suddenly asked me to go.
We drove in silence to the address she gave. It was a low building like a small convalescent home with a drive that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab and were solicitous and intent and watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The small woman was already seated in a wheelchair and asked how much she owed. I told her nothing and she said I had to make a living and I responded "there are other passengers".
Almost without thinking I bent and gave her a hug and she held me tightly. She told me I had given her moments of joy and thanked me. I squeezed her hand then walked into the dim morning light. I did not pick up any more passengers that shift and drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of the day I could hardly talk. What if that little old lady had gotten an angry driver or one who was impatient, in a hurry and absorbed in events of his own life? What if I had refused to take the run or just driven away? On a quick review I don't think I have ever done anything more important in my entire life than I did last night.
We are conditioned to think that the value of our lives revolve around great moment, but great moments often catch us unaware. Often times it is in retrospect that we realize we have just experienced a moment of grace. God does not often manifest Himself to us in claps of thunder but mostly in the still, small whispers that are so easy to miss. It is in those unscheduled moments when we have the opportunity to reach out to one another and give of ourselves that we truly experience the living Christ who is present in each of us. Those are the moments of grace when we can be Jesus to one another.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
The Cab Ride
I received this from a friend of mine. "Aunt Barb" is a former hospice nurse who recently was the recipient of an extra dose of God's grace provided through two very special people. I wonder how often we pass up the chance to be used as an instrument of God's grace because we're too busy with our own lives. It's funny how often people step away from their lives to be used to bring ourselves and others an extra measure of God's grace and mercy. My prayer is that God would use me whenever possible to bring His love to those who need it so badly.