This is a guest post by Brian Crawford. He is a Canadian and British expat who recently left Charleston, SC to relocate to France. The unedited story of “The Cab Driver” was first published on his blog on January 28, 2011. Brian is also active on Twitter.
I recently spent two weeks in Toronto while on a business trip to complete some training for a new position overseas. During the trip from my hotel in North York to Toronto’s Pearson Airport I got to talking with my cab driver. He seemed a very chipper fellow, especially considering it was very early in the morning (I have this thing about getting to airports waaaaay in advance of my flights… I’m risk averse when it comes to getting stuck in airports). I asked him where he was from and what had brought him to Canada, and he had an interesting story to tell.
He turned out to be Ethiopian; his mother hailed from one tribe in Ethiopia and his father from another. Because of some unfortunate politics involving these two tribes this fellow ended up fleeing his country and moving to the United States (Virginia) with the rest of his family.
Unfortunately, due to visa restrictions placed upon his family, this fellow was unable to stay in the United States and was forced to leave his family behind (basically, when his other family members arrived in Virginia, they used up their family’s ‘quota’). As a last resort he came to Canada, about which he knew very little; he took a one-way bus trip to Buffalo, New York and met with a church group kindly enough to take him in and help him with crossing the border. When he finally did arrive in Toronto he had $300 in his pocket and nowhere to stay; fortunately some members of the same church group living in Toronto took him in and helped him get settled.
Fast forward a few years – this fellow now has a wife and two kids and is the happiest cab driver I’ve met. He talks about how wonderful Canada is, how lucky he is to be here, and how he never knew what freedom meant until he came here, to a place where people can be who they are and be accepted for it. He also talked about how people often come into his cab grouchy and complaining about work – unfair deadlines and the like – saying, “well, you’re a cab driver; you wouldn’t know what real stress is”. On the contrary, I’m sure many of the people complaining in this fellow’s cab don’t know what real stress is – being unwelcome in your own homeland simply because of your ancestry, and having to flee to a foreign land with $300 in cash in your pocket and an unknown future.
This truly demonstrated to me the power of conversations. When I got into this fellow’s cab I hadn’t meant to talk to him, or in fact to talk at all… I was tired and not looking forward to the long travel day ahead. But for whatever reason, I chose to take the time to ask him about where he was from and what brought him to our country, and I was reminded that just across the pond there are people who live every day hungry and fearful for their lives and for the lives of their families, and that I should make the most of every day and do whatever I can to help those less fortunate than myself. The taxi driver taught me a lesson that I will carry with me wherever I go.
What unexpected conversation will you have today?Photo courtesy of xxx Cool J xxx / Joehl Constantino © All rights reserved.