A Cabbie's Day

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After a few minutes of waiting I decided to walk to the door and knock. “Just a minute,” answered the frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened and a small woman in her 90s stood before me. She wore a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, 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 knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she asked. I took the suitcase out to the cab and then returned to assist her. As 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 to be treated.”

“Oh, you are such a good boy,” she said. When we got into the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, “But could you drive me through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she replied, “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked into the rearview mirror to see her eyes glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued in a small voice. “The doctor says that 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 as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were 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 in front of a particular building or a corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. 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.

It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. “How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I replied.

“You have to make a living,” she answered.

“There are other passengers,” I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent over and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she remarked. “Thank you.”

I didn’t pick up any more passengers on that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of the day I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once and then driven away?

On a quick review, 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.

Here’s to making small moments, great ones!

Blessings, Pastor Michael

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