Day 177: Great Scot

scottishtaxiI had good-deed intentions today but poor planning got in my way (as is often the case for me!).

In the entrance to my church, there’s usually a donation box for used eyeglasses. I had found an old pair of reading glasses today and brought them along to put in the box, but when I arrived, it wasn’t in its usual spot.

I glanced around to see if it had just been moved, but couldn’t find it. I started to wonder if I should put on the specs to help me look.

I did notice bags of groceries for the food drive, so I had the right day for a donation, just the wrong kind!

I gave up looking and went in and sat down. Turns out, the sermon today was all about this third Sunday of Advent being about joy. And this story (from the great site helpothers.org) definitely brought me joy when I read it. And since I’ve been spotlighting “Everyday Heroes” on Sundays, this also seemed very heroic to me, and I hope you think so too:

taxiFrom a flood to a hug
— by wayfarer

The late evening train from Glasgow was battling the worst of the winter weather and the driver was proceeding more on hope than anything. Weeks of rain had meant the line might or might not be flooded — and he wouldn’t know until he got there!

Well, it was flooded. So he backed up to the nearest station where we sat and waited for about half an hour with no one knowing what was going on. I didn’t mind. I wasn’t going home to anyone, I had music to listen to and it wouldn’t be the first night I had slept on a train. But not everyone would be in that position.

Then the lights went out.

Still there was no announcement. We sat another half an hour then the driver announced he was taking the train back to Glasgow and anyone who didn’t want to come with it should get out now.

So, a train load of people decanted onto a rain lashed platform. The station was closed, the only cover was a bus shelter and the little country town seemed closed for the night. I was maybe 20 miles from home, some folks had further to go.

Wandering outside the station I spotted a taxi. I was about to jump in and head off, but amongst the crown I’d noticed a young woman with a baby that looked only weeks old. I asked her if she wanted to share the cab.

She didn’t have enough money she explained, but she could pay when she got home. No problem. No one else seemed keen to share the cab. Maybe they didn’t like the look of me, which made it all the more remarkable that this young woman was okay with it.

In the silence of the journey I thought some more about the chance she was taking and how it was a measure of her need to get her baby home. I couldn’t help but hope that if ever my wife and child were in a similar position someone would be decent enough to take care of them.

Nearing home I asked the driver to stop. I could walk the mile from here. He should take the mother and baby straight home, and I gave him enough money to cover the full fare for both of us. He called me a gentleman and shook my hand.

A year later I was married and going to a dance with my wife. Guess which taxi driver turned up! Seems his name was Davie. He remembered that night and he spent the whole trip telling my wife what a righteous fellow I was.

The next time I met Davie it was Christmas Day — a busy time for taxi drivers and a time when they can charge double fare! I had some young family members who needed to get to the next town so I sent them off and gave them money for the fare. Davie saw them safely to their home — and didn’t charge them a penny!

Time and again he reduced or waived fares for us — to the point where we would almost fall out because of it. Almost, but not quite.

Some time later I was in Davie’s cab and he seemed a little sombre. It turned out his mother had cancer and probably didn’t have long to live. Well, I thought about it, and put it off, and thought about it, and put it off. What would folks think of me?

Eventually I swallowed my embarrassment, gathered my courage and presented myself at the sheltered housing complex with a bunch of flowers. Putting up with the enquiring looks of friends and staff I was led to the room of a poor soul I had never met before.

I can only imagine what she must have thought of this strange man standing nervously in her bedroom. I stammered out that I knew Davie, he’d mentioned she wasn’t feeling too good and I wanted to bring her these flowers. Oh, and by the way, she’d raised a son to be proud of.

If I’d put it off much longer I would have been too late. The lady passed away the next day.

Standing awkwardly (again) at the graveside I tried not to be too conspicuous amongst a bunch of folks I didn’t know. Then Davie, a man I had known only through a few taxi journeys, walked through the crowd and wrapped me in a bear hug.

He’d been to see his mum just before she died. And hadn’t seen her so happy for a long time. She told him she’d spent her life raising her children, then, at the end of it all, a stranger came along and told her she’d done a good job. What more, she asked Davie, could a mother want?

And he cried. And I cried.

And the point of all this? Well, maybe it’s that we west of Scotland men, just don’t do all that hugging-and-crying-in-public stuff. We’d started off with a problem on that cold wet night far from anywhere. We could have stuck to the stereotype and gruffly complained, cursing the rain and the train and our football team for losing. But we didn’t. We both added kindness into the mix.

And now we were hugging in public!

Kindness sounds soft. But it’s a powerful force. What else could take you from a flood to a hug?

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