People are inconvenient. They interrupt. They ask for favors. They’re needy. But they also provide us with the greatest moments of warmth and belonging. Yes, relationships take effort. Everything you teach your children is validated by the relationship you form with them. So when I came across this story, I tucked it away in my file of stories to highlight the value of relationship. The author is unknown.
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One particular night I was called for a ride at 2:30 a.m. The building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before me, dressed like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.
The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knick-knacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner sat a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
“It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated”. “Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said.
When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?” “It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice”.
I looked in the rear-view mirror. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.” I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
“What route would you like me to take, ma’am?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator, then the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived as newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she’d ask me to slow down in front of a particular building and we’d sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun creased the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, a small convalescent home with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out as soon as we pulled up.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers,” I responded as I helped her out of my car. Without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
I squeezed her hand, then got back in my car. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of a life closing.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. For the rest of that day, I mulled over what could have happened. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?
Looking back, I doubt I’ve ever done anything more important in my life.
We’re tempted to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often result from little kindnesses. Teach your children to be kind in little way
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