a day of thanks

There will only be the three at the table today. But I’m cooking that big meal anyway. And I’m thinking of this story — which might or might not be true. It doesn’t matter. I thank my ol’ college chum Jim for sending it my way.
Twenty years ago, he drove a cab for a living.
When he 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, he had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, he always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, he reasoned to himself.
So he walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. He could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before him. 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 knicknacks 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 asked. He took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.
She took his arm and they walked slowly toward the curb.
She kept thanking him for his kindness.
“It’s nothing”, he 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 they got in the cab, she gave him an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”
“It’s not the shortest way,” he answered quickly.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice”.
He 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.”
He quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” he asked.
For the next two hours, they drove through the city. She showed him the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.
They drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had him pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a
Sometimes she’d ask him 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.”
They drove in silence to the address she had given him. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home,with a driveway that passed under a portico.
The two orderlies who immediately came out to the cab were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
He 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,” he said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers,” he responded.
Almost without thinking, he bent and gave her a hug. She held onto him tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
He squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light.
Behind him, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
He didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. He drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day.
What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?
What if he had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, he didn’t think that he had done anything more important in his 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.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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