The Little Moments

  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 partiers, 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 such  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 80s 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, then asked, "Can 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
    I looked in the rearview 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
   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, 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
   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
  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. - Free Stuff For Everyone

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