It had been a long day for the New York City taxi driver and he was really looking forward to a shower and bed. The evening traffic had been busy and he was tired – he was satisfied with the day’s takings, but he now needed a rest after whisking couples off to restaurants and shows and fetching them again when done. As he started making his way home, he received a call from someone with a rather shaky voice asking him for a ride. He wondered if he should respond as he recognised that the pick-up address was located in a dodgy area of the big city, but decided to go anyway, thinking that the person might be in need. He stopped at the address, honked, but nothing happened. He was just about to drive off, partly because he felt anxious hanging around in that specific area, but didn’t, as he remembered the shaky voice communicating the address. He walked up to the door and knocked politely. He heard what seemed like a whisper: “I’m coming” and then a dragging sound followed, stopped and the door slowly opened. The driver had to look down – standing in front of him, a tiny elderly lady, dressed in clothes that seemed to come from the 1940’s and wearing a pillbox hat, smiled and said: “Would you mind carrying this suitcase for me?” The driver picked up the case and asked: “Where are you going ma’am?” The old lady looked up and said: “You see, I don’t have any family anymore and the doctor has told me that I don’t have long to live, so I am going to a care facility to live out my last days. They are expecting me there tomorrow morning. Would you mind if we just drive around a bit before taking me there?” The cab driver explained that this would cost her more, but she dismissed the comment with “that’s fine”. They set off, the old lady asking to go to places that she had experienced in her childhood. They would stop at a school, theatre, shop or monument and the two would sit in the car – sometimes tears would well up in her eyes as she told stories about relationships and interactions with people; on other occasions, nothing would be said and the two would just sit and look. Hours passed by. As the sun started rising over the Atlantic Ocean, bathing the tall buildings of the city with a fresh dose of light, the old lady suddenly said: “That’s it, it’s time. Let’s go to the care facility. I have managed to relive my life and solidify my memories, thanks to you. I can now tackle the last leg of my journey. How much do I owe you?” The driver turned to the lady with tears in his eyes and said: “Nothing ma’am – it’s my gift to you”. After stopping at the first building with the old lady and hearing her story, he had quietly turned the meter off.
The cab driver concluded recounting this story with the following words: “I have always been an aggressive, and perhaps arrogant, cabby, focused on getting people from A to B swiftly so I can take the next call. Money, and not people, was my focus. Whilst making money is important, the old lady taught me that there is always time to care, to show love and to be sensitive to the needs of others. Now, I listen when people want to talk and attempt to be sensitive when they don’t”.
Emotional resonance shows care. Charles Dickens noted: “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else”. Everyone has a role to play to care for humanity. Our world is hurting in so many ways – play out your healing role responsibly.