by Chaplain John Fava
Please note: Bro. Fava did not write the following story titled The Last Cab Ride. He received it from a retired police officer. The story is fiction, but it could be real, and it does have a valuable lesson for all of us.
The Last Cab Ride
It had been a long day, and my shift was almost over. I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes, I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of the day, I thought about just driving away. But instead, I parked my cab, walked up to the door, and knocked.
“Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice.
I could hear something being dragged across the floor, and after a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90s 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 and no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you please carry my bag out to the cab,” she asked?
I took the suitcase to the cab and then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm, and we walked slowly toward the street. 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 Mom to be treated.”
“Oh, you're such a good, young man,” she said.
When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, “Could you please 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 facility.”
I looked in the rear-view mirror and could see that her eyes were glistening.
“I don't have any family left,” she continued in a soft voice. “The doctor says I don't have very much time left.”
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take, ma’am,” 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 would ask me to slow down in front of a particular building or a street corner and would quietly stare into space.
Then the woman said, “I'm getting 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. As I returned to the cab, the woman was already seated in a wheelchair. Reaching into her purse, she asked, “How much do I owe you?”
“Nothing,” I answered.
“You have to make a living,” she said.
“There are other passengers,” I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent down 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 and walked back to my cab. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient and just wanted to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once and then had driven away? As I reminisce, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We are conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware and are beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small occurrence.
People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
There are times when you are unaware of the positive impact that you have on people. Small acts of kindness go a long way, and I have witnessed this many times on my ride-alongs. Here are a few examples of how we can all do small things with great impact:
We read in the bible, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Keep up the good work. May God bless you always.
– Shared by Brother John Fava, SJ. Brother Fava is a chaplain for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and minsters to police officers and their families.