I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and I confess that I’m getting a bit tired of airplanes and taxicabs and eating meals on the run. But on Friday, in the midst of the swirl and whirl of getting to the airport on time, I experienced one of those magical time-out-of-time moments of connection with another human being.
I was running late that morning, and was distracted as I got into the cab, even asking him to wait a moment while I checked my briefcase for cell phone and keys and ticket. It was a beautiful morning–sunny with clear blue skies–and that was, not surprisingly, where the conversation began.
After a bit, the cab driver asked me whether my trip was for business or pleasure. When I answered, “business,” he inquired about my profession. The conversation took a turn, as it often does when I answer that question truthfully, admitting that I am a Unitarian Universalist minister! As we rode through the morning traffic, we entered into a discussion of the theological intricacies of violence and peace and the question of “What Does God Want Us To Do?” while we are alive and on this earth. We talked about the Judgment Day and being called to help our neighbor. Eventually, the conversation shifted to the Arts and how music and images can transcend spoken language. We agreed that, as the cab driver said, “even if you do not understand the words, the music can get to your heart and you understand the meaning.”
As the taxi sped down the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the cab driver glanced into the rearview mirror at me, looked back at the road, and began to sing. It was a haunting melody, more of a chant than a song, and I believe I recognized the language as Arabic. But the words or the language, as I mentioned above, were not the point at this particular moment.
At first, I was taken aback, and my rational mind went wild: What was he saying? What did it mean? Quickly, though, as he continued to sing, I calmed those distracting thoughts, closed my eyes, and sat in the back of the cab listening, letting my heart feel the meaning in his heart. Four or five minutes later, the singing stopped. The driver paused. I opened my eyes, put my hand on my heart and whispered, “Thank you,” at the rear view mirror.
And the cab driver smiled and said, “What airline, please?”
I said “Delta,” and seconds later, we pulled up in front of Terminal A.
I do not know this gentleman’s name. I will likely never see him again. But I will never forget the gift he gave me that busy Friday morning, and I will do my very best to remember to pay attention to those unexpected holy moments when our common humanity transcends our theological and cultural differences.
All blessings to you, Mr. Envirocab Driver.
May you find such gifts as you move through your own busy life.
Rev. Lisa Kemper is Consulting Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun in Leesburg