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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. What an absolutely lovely story. It makes you realize the ripple effect our actions and mood have on those around us. You were able to give this woman something very special…and it sounds like you received just as much or more in return.

    I love the way you write Kent and I believe your words will capture the hearts of many. I also believe that your work could help many ESL learners improve their reading skills (I’m an English teacher, hence the reference to ESL students). With beautiful stories such as this above, how could anyone not want to keep reading, learn what words mean and just enjoy themselves?

    Thank you for sharing this Tina!

  2. Isabel

    Kent (and Tina),

    I was totally not expecting this.
    This story is beautiful in way too many levels, and it moved me deeply.
    Thank you for this moment, and forgive me for being at a nearly complete loss of words.

  3. Beautiful story. I have tears in my eyes. You just never really know when that act of kindness you extend to another human being will be one of the most important things you’ve ever done. So why not just do be as kind as possible as much as possible?

    Love Kent’s writing. :)

  4. It was such a beautiful experienced. Its great feeling if we can make somebody happy, even though we don’t know him/her well.

  5. @Diana

    One thing I love abut Kent’s writing is that he is able to use simple words to convey such powerful meanings, and to captivate his audience’s heart with his authentic presence.

    I highly recommend his books. It’s rare to come across such a clear voice, expressing truth -which we all know but forget- in such a beautiful way.

  6. Hi Isabel,

    Your comment made me smile. I told ya in my daily mailing list that I had something special today. :)

    “being at a nearly complete loss of words.”

    That’s good, it means that thoughts are gone, and you are simply left with space and clarity. hehe…


  7. Hi Lindsay,

    You’re right. Why not extend that and act as kind as we can always. I think that’s one of the points of this story, that we never know how our kindness towards others will affect them.

    The other point, I think Kent is trying to make -summarized beautifully in the quote at the start of the story- that our day is filled with holi moments, and that if we seek it, we are surrounded by gifts; gifts of love, compassion, connection, and Life.


  8. What can one say, but -beautiful. So touching. Life’s wonders are in these moments. Poignant, touching,simple. We’re really here to care and share the journey with others, like this- on a long cab ride.
    Thank you so much Tina for sharing this. Am going to get these books for sure. Hope they’re available in India. God bless.

  9. Uzma,

    “Poignant, touching,simple”

    Hmmm… that perfectly describes it.
    Thank you. Always a pleasure to see a comment from you.


  10. Gregory Onnen

    This was a very touching story, and I will like for the book from which it was excerpted. I’ve lived in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and recall one cold night with a wind chill factor bordering on ridiculous. Several older people were huddled in the dangerously bitter temperatures at a bus stop on Rice St. in St. Paul, and I watched a taxi stop and offer them all a free ride. For every grouch or rudely impatient person behind the wheel of a taxi, there are several good samaritans.

  11. Matt Davis

    Awwww… that was great… brought tears to my eyes… :)

  12. Hi Gregory Onnen,

    Maybe the cab driver you saw was actually Kent!!??!! Haha…

    The book is called “Make Me An Instrument Of Your Peace”, I’ve linked it above. Check it out. I’m gonna buy a copy too. I really want to support Kent, I think he deserves it for spreading so much beauty in our world.


  13. Susan

    I tear up when he leaned over to turn off the meter

  14. Najwa

    im moved n really touched by the spirits of tht is too short so the moments which give us feeling of contentment n happiness.Joy u get through helping others is the super totally inspired by his spirit of helping someone wht if situtaion is not common

  15. That is beautiful Kent. Thanks for sharing your story. Thanks for giving the lady her last wish. I guess there are angels among us.

  16. Clau

    I love reading …
    This hit the spot…
    I was going to start reading a book soon while my vacation from school.
    Thanks Tina for your recommendations.
    Very important reminder! Thank you again,

  17. Debra G.

    OMG … thank you SOOOOOOOOO much for sharing that article … i can’t keep the tears out of my eyes!!!

    and I’m at work, so that’s not very convenient right now … but I don’t care!!!!

    Bless you, Tina, this season especially.

    I’ve enjoyed ALL your emails and look forward to each one of them!

    Take care and may you and your’s have a Blessed Holiday Season!

  18. Flavia

    the story was so amazing, it brought tears to my eyes, thank you for sharing this

  19. Dennis M

    This article by Kent Nerburn made me cry

  20. Rahi S.

    What a rich expression of Grace…a timely reminder to wake up and be present in every moment…because you never know when God will come unannounced into our lives.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us…blessings.

  21. Hi Kent,

    That was indeed a moving story. As I read the story, I could not help but be moved by the old lady’s situation. She had no family and nothing but memories to accompany her as she waited for her looming end. I doubt I could ever fully understand the loneliness and the feelings that she must have been going through on her way to the hospice. I am grateful for the kindness you have shown her. I doubt anyone else in your shoes could have done more.

    I personally believe that in life, we should pay attention to the small and mundane things. For if we cannot do the small things well, how can we hope to handle great things? It is the little things that add up to great things in life. Your story reminds me that we can seize these small moments and make them great by the way we handle them. At least we come away knowing that we made a difference in the lives of those individuals we touched in a small way.

    Thank you Kent, for your story! And thank you Tina, for sharing this post! :)

    Irving aka the Vizier

  22. Vaidehi

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

  23. Thank you Kent! You changed my life a little bit..I will remember this.

  24. Barbara

    Dear Kent, thank you got sharing your amazing story. It I’d incredibly humbling and what more reminds us of the compassion we can have and SHOULD have for one another. This has undoubtedly had a huge impact upon your life, so I thank you got sharing your story with us

    God bless,

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