For today’s blog, I am posting the story from the website credited below, as told by a former taxi driver named Kent Nerburn. It’s a little long but a great reminder.
The last ride
I used to drive a taxi. One one occasion, I arrived at night for a pick up at a building that was dark, except for a single light in a ground floor window.
Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to 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 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a hat like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.
In the apartment, all the furniture was covered with sheets. There was nothing on the walls.
“Would you please carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist her to the taxi.
Then 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. Her eyes were glistening.
“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?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked.. Then, we drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. Sometimes she’d ask me to just slow down in front of a particular building or corner.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. When we arrived, two nurses came out to help her inside. They were expecting her.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There will be other passengers later.”
Almost 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 walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, and lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry or impatient driver. What if I had honked and then just driven away?
As I think about that ride, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware—beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
And for pic o’ day…