Monday, October 25, 2010

Great moments

It will happen on occasion, a great moment that was least expected, simple in nature, yet never to be forgotten.

Working in the mental health industry brought me many of these moments in recent past and those moments taught me many life lessons.  The most profound lesson is similar to the following story.

You can't buy great moments . . . they are gifts from God.

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.  One night I took a fare at 2:30 am, when I arrived to collect, 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. 


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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Coming out of a fog

When we experience those hazy days, unsure of which way to turn, feeling unfocused and running into things hidden in the mist that seem to surround us, we are said to be "in a fog" . . . visibility is limited and slows us down, just as when driving through a fog.  When driving, it is usually best to pull over and wait for the mist to clear . . . it is unwise to move quickly.

Sometimes in life, we may need to slow down . . . the fog could be a gift.  While most of us would prefer to not encounter life obstacles, being in a fog gets our attention and allows us to stop, do nothing . . . be still in that moment and get to the source of the haziness.  It could be an emotional issue that needs attention . . . looking within ourselves can teach important lessons in order to safely proceed.  Perhaps the fog is a reminder to simply slow down.

The fog is unpredictable, not knowing when it will creep up and when it will lift.  Slow down and wait for guidance that may come from within or the lights followed to get out of that fog . . . allow it to lift naturally, like a gentle breeze or the sun that burns it away.  The fog can lift as fast as it creeps up . . . a certainty is that the fog will lift, making it possible to move forward with clarity and inner wisdom.

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Faith and the darkness of the unknown

"When you come to the edge of all the light you know
and are about to step into the darkness of the unknown.
Faith is knowing that one of two things will happen.
There will be solid ground to stand on or
you will be taught to fly."

Author unknown

Life and society as we know it has been changing and in transition . . . the economy, the political scene and unemployment that has run out of control.  Each decision we make is just a part of the cycle of cause and effect, approaching the decision-making process having the faith and knowledge that there are always possibilities and choices available empowers the process of exploring what is most beneficial for each of us as individuals.  

The optimum word is faith.

In the darkness of the unknown, there is one thing that remains constant . . . if we are not happy with present life circumstances and the choices made, we have the power to make different choices.  There are always choices . . . take the time to consider those options and ponder the possible outcomes with heightened awareness rather than make rash decisions based on emotion.

Faith is putting all your eggs in God's basket, 
then counting your blessings before they hatch.
  ~Ramona C. Carroll

Faith has never let me down . . . fears do.

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