The Cab Ride
Last week, on Friday the 13th, I found myself in the back of a NYC taxi, making my way to 14th St. from Penn Station. It was a cab that had one of those monitors attached to the back of the front seat, the ones that play ads and small feature stories, (the ever-present television that we seem lost without,) then jumps to a credit card machine that encourages optional tip amounts. Great little addition for the passenger who wants to avoid both silence and talking. But the problem with those screens is the loop of content, it's short. So if you have a lengthy cab ride, you’ve heard the ads ad nauseam. After you’ve seen the spots once or twice, it’s pretty useless. And annoying. I thought about the poor driver listening to the same stuff over and over for hours and I asked him if he wanted me to turn it down. He said I didn’t have to, not to worry, but I figured he could use the peace and quiet and so could I, so I turned the sound off. He assured me, very kindly, that it wasn’t a bother and I didn’t need to worry about it, but I said we needed the peace. As an aside, I told him that was my constant prayer for the world. That comment commenced the most interesting and engaging conversation I have ever had with a stranger.
I wish I had a mind that could accurately recreate what went between us, but I don’t remember it all, (he had a lot to say,) although I was totally engrossed in the conversation as it was happening. In addition to having a lot to say, he spoke very quickly. So he got a lot in, considering the relatively short distance I was going. I have to preface the rest of this recounting with the additional information that I was rushing to NY for a person who was struggling with thoughts of suicide, a person I love dearly; and I prayed for not only her, but for my family, the entire way up on the train. Sadly, we all have history with such things. But the two hours of prayer had put me in a heightened state of spirituality. (A state I don’t arrive at as often as I wish I did.) So, I was fairly locked into everything he was saying. He was obviously a spiritual man but also very knowledgeable about all the different prophets of the world. I asked him what religion he was and he told me, Islamic.
We talked about the root of all religions being love and human beings missing the connection. We talked about how wars created a disregard for human life, we talked about the prophet’s messages, and we talked about blood crime being the worst offense a person could make (I say we talked, but mostly he just told me about these things, with a few prompting questions from me.) He was so interesting and I found myself saying yes quite a bit. As a matter of a fact, there was a long stretch where the only word I said was, “yes,” again and again. He made perfect sense, not in a religious fanatic way but in a thoughtful regard for humanity way. He listened, during the few times I interjected comments and thoughts, with attention and respect. When we talked of love, he agreed that if we all shed the perishable container that houses our spirits, if we unzipped our bodies, our spirits would immediately connect because we are all one. But he spoke of evil after I made that comment and I felt the harsh truth of his words. That’s when he talked of the weight of blood crimes. He instructed while he shared and I felt the passion of his words and thought that surely God had put him in my path. How else could I explain the circumstances of the night paired with this voice in a cab.
The ride to 14th wasn’t fast enough, while it went too fast. I needed to be where I was going but I could have stayed in the cab a while longer. In the middle of that Goliath of a city, teaming with over 9 million people, sat two perfect strangers who were completely connected. Even if only for that moment in a cab, we had connected with the One. I asked him what he called God and he said, “Allah.” And he worked with me to pronounce it correctly. But I realize now, it doesn’t matter so much that we say His name correctly, in whatever form; God, Jesus, Allah, Yaweh, Jehova, what matters is that we understand and live the root of what He teaches ~ love.
Although the cab driver talked for the majority of the ride, he let me make the last comment. I told him I wanted to share with him a prayer I had been concentrating on. I said I didn’t think the men of power and persecution could change, no matter how much we all need them to, so I pray for the infants coming into the world right now instead. I told him we need to start a global prayer that the children who are being born now, no matter what their ethnicity, background or influence, that they will be love. That they will teach us about love regardless of the environment they grow up in. If we all pray for it now, we can heal as they grow.
And then it was his turn to say, “yes.” He assured me he would adopt the prayer, he blessed me, and the person I was going to see, and we parted ways.
If I had any doubts that I was supposed to take off on a difficult, impromptu trip to NYC to try and help someone I loved, I didn’t anymore.