Compassion on the Streets of New York

This story came to me from Bhikkhu Samahita. It demonstrates compassion on the streets of New York. I’m including the whole story because it is quite moving.

Compassion on the Streets of New York

“I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I
honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about
just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up 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 90’s stood before me.
She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, just like
somebody out of a 1940’s 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 & 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 cab. 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 to be treated.’
‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an
address and 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 rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any
family left,’ she continued in a soft voice.. ‘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 young girl.
Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner 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 way that 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, and then walked into the dim morning light..
Behind me, a door shut. It was like the sound of the closing of a life..
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in 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 to end his shift? What if I had refused
to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick dry review:
I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my entire life!
We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.
But great moments often catch us unaware beautifully wrapped in what others
may consider a small nothing…”

I love this story. On a stressful day, as this one had been until I read this, it was just what I needed.

What do you think of the taxi driver who showed compassion on the streets of New York? What do you think of the lady in the cab?

If your heart went out to her, why not share this story with your friends and family. Let’s hope other elderly people without families are taken care of in the same manner.

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