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The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget

Photo by Mike Bailey Gates (Talented 17 year old rising star in photography)
Editor’s Note

I have got an extraordinary gift for you today - in the form of a story written by the awe-inspiring Kent Nerburn. Enjoy and share it with others if the story touched your heart like it did mine.

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.

—-

Editor’s Note – Tina:

The above story was adapted from the book “Make Me An Instrument Of Your Peace” by the highly acclaimed author of 14 books, Kent Nerburn.

I recently brought a copy of Simple Truths with me on vacation. I opened the book one blissful morning, parked myself on the beach and didn’t lift my head until it was finished. I hung on to every word, savored the depths behind every sentence, and reflected on its subtle meanings.

The book was so simple, so rich, so deep and so beautiful, that I have decided that it was THE perfect gift for anyone I cared about. Just like the story above, his book spoke directly to my Soul and opened up my heart. It’s just over 100 pages, and I highly recommend it. If you like the types of articles we produce on this site, then I think this book will make you happy.

Here’s what Echkart Tolle had to say about Kent:

Kent Nerburn reveals to us that which lies beyond the surface appearance of reality. His writings are permeated by stillness. In a world gone astray. They are of inestimable value.” – Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now (which I recommend to everyone!)

I am currently reading The Hidden Beauty of Everyday Life and plan to read Small Graces and Letters to My Son next. Care to join me? Share your thoughts about this and other books on our facebook discussion.

Author’s Note – Kent:

I’m deeply moved and honored that Tina would see fit to publish my essay, “The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget”. This story is excerpted from a longer piece in a book of mine, “Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace: Living in the spirit of the prayer of St. Francis”.

In that book I tried to create a meditation on St. Francis’ transcendent prayer of the same name by reflecting on each line and finding a moment in my ordinary life where I had the good fortune and grace to be able to do something that was worthy of the spirit of the gentle saint from Assisi.

Like all of us, I muddle through life trying to create more happiness than sadness and struggling to be kind. Often I fall short, as we all do. But on a rare occasion, something luminous happens.

Such was the case on the night many years ago when my job as a cab driver brought me to the door of an elderly woman in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The rest of the story is told in the piece above Tina is sharing with you.

It has been my great good fortune to have this small essay about this small moment travel around the world many times. I hope it serves as inspiration to you, and reminds you that though we do not all live holy lives, all our lives have holy moments when the best of who we are shines through.

Sometimes that doesn’t seem like much, but we never know when the touch we make will touch the lives and hearts of others.

If you find this story meaningful, I hope you will look for some of my other stories in Letters to My Son, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace, Small Graces, and The Hidden Beauty of Everyday Life. In those books I try to reveal other moments where the life of the spirit shines through the most ordinary moments of our everyday lives.

I hope your journey through the wondrous adventure of life is going well, and that you always stay present to the beautiful moments that meet us unaware in the most ordinary circumstances.

Thank you again, for taking the time to read this story, of a simple moment that has found a voice all around the world.

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54 thoughts on The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget

  1. Leah

    Oh Tina…I loved this story so much. I wish my office had a door so I could cry to myself. :) Thank you for sharing on your site.

    Kent, thank you for writing this. Happy Holidays. :)

    • Hi Leah. :) I feel the same way. Actually, I just cried, savored every word of the story, and sent the story to everyone I know.

      Kent is truly gifted, and I am so thankful I’ve found him.

  2. Alicia

    What a beautiful story. Tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write. Thank you for this moment. Some many times we take life for granted especially the lives around us. I will think of this story today as I go about my daily activities remembering the kindness and the patience taught in it.

  3. Wow what a beautiful story! I’m really enjoying reading your blog :)

  4. Kim Mcdonald

    Life is truely a gift. Be Thankful for what you receive.

  5. Vaidehi Naik

    Beautiful :) i love this story and can read it over n over again.thank u for sharing

  6. Mahalia

    inspiring! :)

  7. Aw, man, that made me cry at work. Breathtakingly beautiful.

  8. Wow! i’d rather savour moments of bliss like this. reading this article took me on a tour, with vivid imagery in my mind, it helped me see how striving isn’t the best way to savour moment. I am now more determined to create impact, which is my life mission while being aware of my frail nature as a human. thanks for sharing this good stuff.

  9. Shankar Ganesh

    I found the story today and shared it. Thank you for taking the time to publish this, Tina :) The story also moved many of my friends who read it.

    Thank you! Have a great day!

  10. Ash

    Holy Cow this made me bawl! Such a fantastic story! Its amazing to realize that the greatest joys, memories and lessons can come out of the smallest and simplest of times.

    Blessings!

  11. lee

    hey Tina
    I’ve been a member for a long time and I cannot thank you enough for sharing this story. I would have never have heard of such beautiful story if it wasn’t for this site. I’m 19, off to university in a a short while and in a journey of a life time. I recently bough the book ‘make me an instrument of your peace’ by Kent newborn its the book from which this peace of beauty was extracted from. I’m currently half way through the book. I’m not a keen reader and always found it difficult to find a book that I will enjoy but since reading this piece, I have finally found a starting point.

    May your wishes be granted and have a spectacular Christmas and a happy new year.

    lee

    • Aww.. thank you Lee! I appreciate that. How are you liking the book? I bought a copy, but haven’t dove into the book yet.

      Happy holidays to you! Stay warm.
      Tina

  12. Lets all be a little more kinder in our lives like the cab driver!

  13. David

    All I can say that it moved me and brought tears in my eyes. The words – so simple yet so profound may me visualize each and every single step of the story;

    Thank you for making my day :)

  14. Hmm…this is really a heart touching story.

  15. Wow. That was powerful. It’s so easy in this day and age to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle that we could forget to show kindness to others, as the author alluded to with his ‘what if’ section at the end of the story.

    Sometimes we never truly end up knowing just how much a single act of kindness means to another person. Thanks for sharing this essay!

  16. What a lovely story. It just shows how we should just stop for a moment and think of others and give them some space.

    Thanks also for recommending the books, I shall give them a try.

  17. tommmm " the flowerman"

    its a beautyfull way to be–and sometimes you miss it—but that just showya that your a kind soul- and hopefully you dont miss many more—-someone might say YOURE TO NICE- but –how can you be too nice— the person who said that knows what nice is — and theyre are holding back–they dont wanna be to nice–shame shame–PEACE W/ LOVE

  18. It’s amazing reading Kent’s story, due to the fact that I appear to be living his life myself. A few years ago I found myself having to drive a taxi for a living after a break up of a marriage and the loss of my son. I fell apart, I mean really fell apart. I had to quit my job as a Police Constable in the UK, and to eat I found myself working of a night on the streets of Liverpool for twelve hours driving the drunks, the drug addicts and the lost and the lonely.
    And it was there, finally, that I found myself.
    I started to write, little blog pieces about the people I met at first, then someone read my blog who ran a magazine and they started to publish them, and over time, slowly but surely, I started to think of myself of a writer. I still drive a taxi, but now I have an ebook out, Rear View Mirror, now I’m an author, and now, finally, I’m happy.
    I found myself amongst those lost people… I drove home.

  19. Totally brought me to tears, so beautiful, words cannot express. With your permission I would love to include your works in my blog.

  20. Who me Adriana? If so of course! I’d be very flattered! If not, just ignore me I’ll stand over here out the way… :-)

  21. Wow. A version of this story is all over the web, without your name attached. And without the really nice context of this story… someone pared it down. I thought it was incredibly inspiring, so I went for a search to find out which “NYC cabbie” wrote it. Sometimes the story would contain the words “A NY Cabbie once wrote” and sometimes it didn’t.

    It’s a beautiful story, but I had to search back 100 pages on google to find where it came from–from today, May 9 back to Dec 2010 when it was published here. And the phrase I searched for wasn’t even in your original piece! Hehe. I wanted to know if the story were true–and now I know.

    I think it’s important for everyone to know who you are and who wrote it. It’s obviously traveled everywhere on its own, in a different form. I’m glad I searched until I found you. Thank you for sharing this story.

  22. What a wonderful story highlighting the goodness of people, miracle happens when we our heart are open and that any job can be a ministry.
    Thank you Kent. I look forward to reading your book based on one of my favorite prayers.

  23. Thomas

    Here’s what Echkart Tolle had to say about Kent:
    “Kent Nerburn reveals to us that which lies beyond the surface appearance of reality. His writings are permeated by stillness. In a world gone astray. They are of inestimable value.” – Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now (which I recommend to everyone!)

    - I dont read Tolle because of these sort of statements from him. If you belive what he says there is no value in anything because there is no value and no stillness in anything because there is no stillness and how could a world go astray if it is all perception.

    Great story though, very touching :)

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