Rev. David Pruitt
Bradford Congregational Church
August 6, 2017
Luke 24: 13-40 Matthew 25:31-40
When He walked the earth, the compassion of Christ could show up at strange times and in unusual ways. It was sometimes not accurately identified until after the fact. Luke describes two followers of Christ who hungered for connection with him and spent likely a blessed hour or more with him but did not recognize him until the end of their visit.
Matthew gives us Jesus praising other followers for marvelous ministry to him in his need when they had no idea it was Christ they were serving. This can still be true today. This morning we’ll share a short communion reading reminding us of that truth. It’s entitled “Taxi Driver”.
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for living. 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.
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 1940’s 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 knickknacks 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 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,” I responded. 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 ended 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.
People may not remember exactly what you did, or what your said, but they will ALWAYS remember how you made them feel.
So we celebrate an act of thoughtful, heart-felt compassion. The name of God, of Christ is nowhere spoken. The taxi driver, and perhaps the elderly woman, may have seen their experience as only an act of human kindness.
But after the fact, such acts can and should be celebrated as in the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth. When the time comes, may there be such a taxi driver for you and me.