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Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a 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.

So 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 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, 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 rearview mirror. Her eyes were

"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 me 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
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
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
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
end 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
But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what
others may consider a small one.




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