by Ariane Cunningham
It was a sunny day during a visit earlier this year to Sarasota, Florida. I was visiting for work, and as usual, Uber was my preferred method of navigating any city in which I have never visited. A lot has been said about Uber lately in the news. Mostly, around individuals that are miles above the pay-scale of Uber drivers. This story is about an Uber driver who truly touched me with a story of kindness, encouragement, and gratitude. The Uber ride started out as all of my Uber rides, I greet the driver, thanking the driver for providing me with their service, and exchanging pleasantries about the weather. This Uber driver, whom I will refer to as Bill, as sadly I don’t remember his name, had a daughter who was in medical school in the D.C. area. Instantly, I felt he and I had something in common, I was born and raised in the D.C. area. We talked until we reached my destination, a local Walgreens. I needed to pick-up a prescription, so I kindly asked Bill if he could wait for me. He obliged.
So, as most pharmacy lines go, the wait was longer than expected. I called Bill using his Uber number and told him that I could call another Uber as the wait was longer than expected. Bill, being the kind gentleman that he is said, “No worries. I will wait.” 15 minutes later, I get back into the Uber and thank Bill for patiently waiting for me. I briefly complained about the long line. Bill mentioned that life is too short to complain. I agreed with him. While traveling back to my hotel, Bill began to share a story with me that I feel I will never forget, and in a number of ways, has changed my life.
The night before, Bill said he received and responded to an Uber request to pick-up a young man at a bar, and his destination was an infamous bridge by Sarasota standards for its height. Bill says the young man gets into his car, and he immediately smelled alcohol. The young man reeked of alcohol. Bill asked the young man his name. He replied “Jose”. Bill then asked Jose “May I ask why your destination is the bridge? Are you meeting someone there?” Jose replied, “No. I am going there to take my life. I have nothing to live for.” Bill sat in silence for what he described felt like an eternity. He asked “Jose, why do you feel your life is not worth living?” Jose shared with Bill that he was originally from a small city in California, and because of the area in which he lived, he was affiliated by neighborhood-only to a local gang. He fled California to live with a cousin in Sarasota to escape the gang. Once Jose settled a life for himself in Sarasota, he would send for his wife and his only child, a daughter. That very day, the day that Jose got into Bill’s Uber headed to a bridge, he found out that the gang from which he ran from murdered his wife and his daughter in cold blood. Jose’s wife and only child, the family Jose planned to send for once he created a life for himself in Sarasota, had been brutally killed. Upon hearing this, Bill found a safe place to pull over. He said to Jose, “Son, there is a reason that God allowed our paths to cross. God does not want you to take your life. God wants to save your life.” Bill then proceeded to pray with Jose. After praying, Bill told Jose that, if Jose agreed, he wanted to take him to the home of his pastor, who happened to speak Spanish fluently, as Jose was of Latin descent. Jose agreed. Jose ended up staying at the home of Bill’s pastor and his family overnight. While there, Jose reached out to other family members that lived in other parts of Florida for support. The pastor and his family told Jose that he could stay as long as he needed.
As I write this, tears are flowing down my face. The same tears I shed in Bill’s Uber as he shared this story with me. On that day, in that moment, after hearing that story, I sobbed uncontrollably. I bowed my head and sobbed thinking how much I took for granted on a daily basis, the small things, like not living in fear, being able to pick up the phone to call my loved ones knowing they are safe, and the sheer blessing of the biggest gift of all….LIFE.
Bill gave me his card that day, asking me to please keep in touch with him. When I arrived home from my business trip, I literally tore my suitcase and bags to pieces looking for that card to thank Bill for sharing that story with me. I would never find that card. Bill said something to me as I exited his Uber that day that has stayed with me to this day, “Be thankful for each day, and pray for Jose.”
Deep Zen Meditation
Jose, I know we will never meet. You have no idea how much your story has touched my life and my soul. I pray for you each day. Bill, thank you. You are an angel on earth. There are no other words for the impact that one Uber ride that you so graciously provided has had on me. I am grateful, humbled, and thankful. Whenever my mind has the nerve to fuss over small things, I think of the story of Jose. A story I wanted to share. A story I will never forget.
Thank You, Jose, for reminding me of the many things for which I am thankful.