I got this e-mail this morning from a childhood friend. I just thought I’d pass it on, because yesterday Pepe LePew’s kindness in Montana touched me, as does this:
I arrived at the address where someone had requested a taxi.
I honked but no one came out.
I honked again, nothing.
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 90’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, and 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.
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.
Life may not be the party we hoped for,
but while we are here we might as well dance.
I actually had an experience like this several years ago.
I’ve been a harpist in one of my many incarnations and taught lessons for years.
A few years ago I got a call from a woman who was wondering if I would be willing to come and teach her mother a harp lesson. Usually I had students come to my house, but she said her mom was fragile and not up for traveling, so I figured what the heck.
An illogical layer of my reason for being willing to go was that these two women, mother and daughter, had the same names as my mother and me, which I thought was very cool.
When I got there, they were absolutely delighted — her mom had played the piano for years and always wanted to play the harp. And as we began to talk I realized that she, like the woman in Cher’s story, was on hospice.
So, I spent the afternoon there — I played, she played, we sang, we talked music. And like the cab driver, there was no way in he// I could charge money for this — if was as great a gift as I’ve ever had, to have the honor of spending time with them at that point in their lives. And as I said to the daughter,
thanks for this…It has reminded me of the beauty of a moment or memory. We do, indeed, need to be reminded to ‘dance’ as often as we can as though no one is looking, right?
..oh….and thanks for reducing me to a blubbering mess after reading this…geez…..~smirk~
Beautiful, Cher! Thanks so much for sharing this story!
Random acts of kindness…would that we had more of them in this sometimes cruel world!
Thanks, Cher. I always need a good cry in the morning! (LOL) I love this line:
“On a quick review, I don
Thank you for sharing that. Luckily, I keep tissues on my desk.
Isn’t it a shame that our society rewards the flashiest, the most brazen even though they may sometimes be contributing nothing of value? While I don’t believe in heaven and hell the way I was taught in Catholic school, occasionally, I hope there is an afterlife that will appropriately punish people (like Madoff, Bush, Cheney, etc.)
Guess we’ll find out someday!
It is a real shame!
And I have to chuckle a little–you sound like my husband. He is adamant that there is no god, but he believes in hell! Go figure…
Thank you for your kind words, Cher.
There is a Hell. I’ve been there. It’s called Bakersfield.