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 an updated cab, had a screen attached to the back of the front seat; the ones that play ads and short feature stories, (the ever-present television 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 minimal. On a lengthy cab ride, you’ve heard the ads ad nauseam. After seeing the spots once or twice, they graduate from infomative and entertaining to just plain annoying. Had a heart for the poor driver, listening to the same noise over and over for hours, so 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; did us both a favor and 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.
Wish I had the kind of mind that could recreate what went between us verbatim, to say it was an engaging conversation is a colossal understatement. In addition to having a lot of weighty things to say, the driver spoke with a passionate pace as well, took everything I had to keep up. He shared a lot, considering the relatively short distance I was going, and all of it was meaningful.
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. Had been praying for not only her, but for my family, the entire way up on the train. Sadly, we have history with such things, and this is a person we all love. The two hours of prayer put me in a heightened state of spirituality. (A state I don’t arrive at as often as I'd like.) My prepped mindset had me 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 wars creating a cavalier 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 told me of these things, with a few prompting questions from me.) He was so thought-provoking, 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 with my assessment, if we all shed the perishable container we walk around in, if we unzipped our skin, our spirits would immediately connect, we couldn't help but be One. 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 at my destination but 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. Told him I wanted to share a prayer I'd been concentrating on. Prefaced the prayer with the sad reality that the powerful, the persecuters of our world wouldn't change, no matter how much we need them to, so I pray for the infants coming into the world instead. Told him we need to start a global prayer that the innocents, and the children who are being born now, no matter what their ethnicity, background or influence, will be Love. That they will teach us about Love regardless of the environment they live in. If we all pray for it together, 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 about taking off on a difficult, impromptu trip to NYC to try and help someone, I didn’t anymore. Love was waiting for me in a taxi.
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