Thursday, 16 December 2010

Golden Nugget

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I Found This Golden Nugget While Looking for Something Completely Different.
The writer said he would like it shared.

“We may not all live holy lives, but we live in a world alive with holy moments.” ~ Kent Nerburn

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.
It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss.
What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry.
Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional.
Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives.
I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, and made me laugh and weep.
But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.

I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town.
I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partyers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.

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, 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 knick-knacks 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, 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”.
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, 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.

Kent Nerburn


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I wonder what you think of this?

7 comments:

Christine said...

I am crying. I think it's beautiful and I hope to God that I am awake and aware enough in my daily life that someday I can be a person who helps people put a period on their life. What a priviledge.

Kathleen said...

We all need to slow down, and we all need to care for each other. We are all human with the same needs. Just looking at the outside of someone, dosen't tell you the whole story. Great post, Sheilgh. Thank you for sharing.
Hugs & Love, Kathleen

Anne H said...

A wonderful Christmas Story!

accidental carer said...

I lost it as soon as he turned off the meter. I know I have seen this before somewhere but it never fails to make me weep. Oh that we could all be as certain that we could act in the same way.

I like to think the job I do is important and that I give comfort every day.

Thanks for reminding us darling xx............

Marie said...

I have seen this before Sheilagh. Loved it then, love it now! Thanks for sharing it with us! Have a fabulous weekend! Stay warm! xxoo

spunkysuzi said...

What a wonderful story! Too many of us just don't take the time to slow down and listen to others! If we did i believe we would learn a lot!

Buttercup said...

This story always makes me cry. Thanks for sharing and thanks so much for being my friend.