The Cab Ride
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building 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, and 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 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 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, 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." 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 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 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 said.
"You have to make a living," she answered.
"There are other passengers," I responded. 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, and 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 lost in thought. For the rest of that 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, 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.
People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, -- but – they will always remember how you made them feel.
This cab driver said, “On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.” He is probably right. In this world, especially in the world of religion, we strive to do great things: write great books, preach great sermons, build huge institutions, save millions of souls, build a wing of a hospital or seminary, pray with the President, launch a T.V. ministry, etc.
But in the scheme of heaven, it is the little things done on earth that carry great weight.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
In the parable of the talents, those who multiplied their few earthly talents were given authority over entire cities. Faithfulness in “little things” here on earth goes a long way in the kingdom of God. I have a feeling the qualities God is looking for in people who will reign with Him are quite different from what secular and even religious institutions look for.
Today, see what “little thing” you can do for one of your fellow sojourners on this planet. Who knows, it might end up being the most important thing you did in your entire life. It may carry great weight in the life to come.
“For I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41)
He or she who is faithful with little things, will be faithful with much. He or she who is not faithful with little things cannot be trusted with eternal matters. GA