Her Last Cab Ride

As we settle into the New Year, it’s appropriate to focus on how we demonstrate love, care, and concern to people around us, whether or not we know them. Here’s a reminder in a story forwarded to me by a dear friend about some of the important things in life. It’s a bit lengthy, but well worth the read.

I arrived at the address and honked my taxi’s horn. After waiting a few minutes, I honked again. Since this was going to be the last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away. But instead I put the cab in park and walked up 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 90s stood before me. She was wearing 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 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. I replied, “It’s nothing. I try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.” She replied, “Oh, you’re such a good boy!”

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and 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 facility.”

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. She continued in a soft voice, “I don’t have any family left. 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 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 down in front of a particular building or 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 small building, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab 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 answered. “You have to make a living,” she said. “There are other passengers,” I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent down 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, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

For the rest of that day I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver,  impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

In reflection, I don’t think 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.

People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said. But they will always remember how you made them feel. 

That’s the end of the story but the beginning of the motivation to respond in like fashion.

It’s a blessing for me to serve two charitable organizations that demonstrate Christian love in tangible but different ways.

My vocational calling to Legacy Deo, formerly Lutheran Foundation of Texas, enables me to help people plan their estate for the benefit of their family and favorite charitable causes.

This week I spent two days initiating the probate process for a single man, never married, who made plans to provide for his extended family members, Texas Church Extension Fund, and Concordia University Texas. We can provide that same kind of assistance for you. For information and help with your plan, call (512) 646-4909 or go to www.legacydeo.org.

In my avocational time I serve on the Board of Directors of a few worthy organizations. One is Driving Hope of Texas, established to provide non-emergency medical transportation for rural Texans, particularly low income or needy people. For information on how you can help, call (800) 674-3489 or go to www.drivinghopetexas.org.

Even if you’re not a cab driver, there are many ways to use your God-given gifts to help people experience a moment of joy in this life and an eternity of joy in the life that is to come.

Legacy Deo and Driving Hope of Texas are among many organizations that can enable you to use your blessings of time, energy, and money to be a blessing to others. What a great way to start this New Year!

Listening and Understanding

listeningToday I have two quotes:

  • “A good listener is not only popular everywhere but after a while he knows something.” – Wilson Mizner
  • “It is better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.” – Anatole France

One of the difficulties most people have when listening to another is the tendency to stop listening and to start thinking about how to reply, especially if the reply is a rebuttal. The problem that develops is that the listener may not truly understand the speaker’s perspective and rationale, which leads to greater difficulty in reaching a point of agreement between the two.

Years ago I learned a technique simply called “active listening.” In an Effectiveness Training seminar, participants were divided into teams of two. One participant was given a written script with directions to read the script to the other participant, verbatim. The listener was instructed to try to repeat as nearly as possible the exact words that had been read.

While the exercise seemed rather sophomoric at the time, it worked quite well. The listener repeated the words of the reader, who instinctively nodded his head in appreciation for the fact that the listener actually listened. The reader went on to speak in greater detail about the topic of the written script. Before long there was a greater sense of mutual respect, simply because the listener was actually listening and understanding instead of trying to formulate a response.

While not a magic wand, the art of active listening is essential to understanding. Agreement often comes from understanding, even if it takes the form of agreeing to disagree.

God is glorified when people communicate with one another with love and respect. Listening and understanding are essential components of that process!