If you have read my past posts, you know that on September 26, 2016 I had a stroke which has prevented me from driving school bus for an entire year. For nine-months I had fun pretending to be retired until the school district I work for quit paying me. I would not see another paycheck from June 1st until the end of October. Eventually I’ll drive school bus again, but what could I do in the meantime to pay the bills?
My daughter, Jaymi suggested I go to work driving for Lyft. What is Lyft you ask? Just think of Uber without the scandals. Still confused? I use my own car to take strangers where they want to go. It’s like taking a taxi only much less expensive and ,my riders could experience the privilege of having me as their driver.
The choice between driving around in my car listening to music and sports talk on the radio verses flipping burgers at MacDonald’s or break-dancing on the sidewalk, while flipping advertising signs around my chubby body, was a no-brainer. Becoming a Lyft driver came with one big hurdle – I had to purchase a newer car. Image is important, so Lyft requires their driver’s use vehicles no older than 2008. Not only does Lyft want their cars young, they must be ravishing beauties free from blemishes both inside and out. Karen and I had a 2004 Toyota Corolla and a 2003 Camry. They were aging poorly. The Camry’s bumper was held together with duct tape while the Corolla’s paint job revealed many unsightly age-spots. Both were incontinent, leaking fluids to the point of me wishing Kimberly-Clark would produce a Depends product for the geriatric automobile.
We didn’t have thousands of dollars sitting in our bank account, just waiting to plunk down on a newer car. Shoot – we just borrowed money to help Karen get the dental implants she most desperately needs. That $20,000 loan only covered half the procedure. After much research into what I could realistically make with Lyft and then much prayer, we decided to pull the trigger and look for a newer car. We eventually bought a 2014 Camry Hybrid. It was pricy, but the hybrid drinks less fuel than its gas guzzling older brother also named Camry but without a last name. The hybrid was more spacious than most other hybrids.
I started driving for Lyft on June 4th and have never regretted it. I enjoy talking to my customers. Not all of them want to carry on a conversation, and that’s okay. I can tell right away if someone wants to talk or not. I always welcome my passenger and ask them a question like, “Tell me about your day?” or “Are you a long time Washington resident or just visiting?” If they grunt a one word response or are hypnotized by their cell phone I know to shut up, turn on some music and enjoy the ride.
Some of the conversations I’ve had with the ones who do want to talk have ranged anywhere from relatively mundane small talk about sports, the weather, traffic and their jobs to more spicy topics such a politics and religion and has at times even escalated to emotional exchanges of grief over lost loved ones and painful admissions of addictions.
One man shared how hard life had been the past few years while recovering from an automobile accident but shared how his life was now looking up after a victory in court. While exiting my car, he thanked me for listening and handed me a $100 dollar bill.
I asked a Chinese student who is getting her engineering degree at the University of Washington if she was going to stay in the United States after graduation or return to China. She sat silently for a moment. A melancholy smile appeared and she began to nod. “After experiencing all the wonderful things your country has to offer, I very much would like to live here. I come from a very rural and poor area in China which desperately needs the skills I am developing to make life easier for my community, so I must return home.”
A grieving middle-aged woman tearfully shared how the image which dominates her mind is of her holding her mother’s ashes. In her mind she couldn’t see her mother’s face – only her ashes.”
And just the other day a conversation which began with a thirty-eight year old woman telling me she’s a sex addict, led to her admitting to being a drug addict yearning to turn her life around so she could be a better mother to her young daughter but isn’t sure she’s willing to take the steps necessary to make that a reality.
These are only a few of the many conversations I have with my passengers, many of whom allow me to pray for them. God is amazing. Before I leave my driveway each day, I pray God would bring people my way who I can encourage somehow. Almost every day He answers that prayer. I don’t have all the answers to improve these stranger’s lives. What I can do is listen intently, show empathy when needed, give my opinion, from a Christian point of view, when asked and offer prayer.
Do you ask God for divine appointments? If you don’t, I challenge you to give it a try. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed or bored – only blessed.