I took the Amtrak train to St. Louis last week. I arranged for an Uber ride to pick me up and take me to the station early the morning of my trip. I had had a very troubled week, so I was depleted and not looking forward to an exhausting day of travel. The Uber driver arrived a little after 5 a.m. I climbed in the back seat with my suitcase and bag, then asked the driver, who I’ll call Eddie, how his day was going. He answered “not so good.” He started driving at midnight, after work. He tries to make at least $50 a shift between tips fares and tips; that hadn’t happened so far that night. He had been stiffed by a customer who asked him to make several stops, promised him a 20 dollar tip, but gave him nothing. “I trusted the wrong person,” he lamented, as if blaming himself.
I said something mildly sympathetic, like “that’s too bad,” and that was enough for him to tell me more. He started driving for Uber to support his daughter. He previously worked as a freelance handyman, but lost his business with the covid shutdown. Now he is just trying to get by. He used to have a big family, but his mom died when he was still in his his teens and now it’s just him and his brother left. His brother is disabled and has been trying for years to get disability; Eddie helps him as much as he can, but it’s a real struggle.
In between telling me his hardships, Eddie was apologizing: “I’m sorry for getting into all of this.” I answered, “No, it’s fine.” And I really meant it; in fact, I meant more than that. I meant that I felt privileged that he was willing to share his suffering with me. We all suffer; we all need to get out what’s troubling us. I happened to be present when Eddie’s heart of pain overflowed; it was a holy moment.
Eight or nine minutes into the ride, about three minutes from the station, it came to me that Eddie needed prayer, so I said, “Let me pray for you.” He agreed and pulled over so he could just listen. I prayed for him, his brother, and his daughter, that God would help them and bless them, that they would know they aren’t alone but that they are loved and cared for. When I stopped, he thanked me, saying how much it meant to him. He was crying by the time he dropped me off, and was apologizing for that. I reassured him that was fine and said again that God was there for him. He said, “I know, that’s why I keep going.” I’ve been using Uber for years, but this is the first time I made my driver cry!
I tried to give him a $20 tip on the Uber app to make up what he had lost earlier in the evening. That didn’t seem to work, so I pulled a twenty out of my wallet and gave it to him. Later I saw that the app eventually worked, so his tip amounted to $40. Between that and his share of the fare, our ride got him within a couple dollars of his $50 goal. Percentage-wise, I think it’s the largest tip I’ve ever given.
About fifteen minutes into the train ride, as I thought about the ride with Eddie, I started crying, too. After the week I had, I really needed to let my tears flow; who knew that an Uber ride would make it happen? I realized the prayer I offered was in part an answer to itself; by the very act of praying for and with Eddie he received at least part of the blessing he needed. It was humbling to be a part of that. Sometimes, when I help someone else, my actions are rooted in my ego. It’s all about what I’m doing and how wonderful it is that I’m doing it. That’s not truly entering into someone’s suffering. Entering in is this: recognizing we are alike since I suffer as well, knowing there’s nothing I can do to alleviate the immensity of a person’s pain, but doing whatever I feel impelled to do only to find, amazingly, that it’s exactly what was needed. And, beyond all expectation, receiving in return a gift of joy.
So thank you, God, for using me. Thanks for the privilege of being positioned so as to hear and love Eddie, letting him know that he is not alone. Thank you.