The day began with the typical Chicago early morning travel adventure: Cab wasn’t there at the time I’d requested the night before, I called the company, agent said they’d call me back, received text that cab was 10 minutes away, cab arrived 20 minutes later, and while in the cab I received a text stating that cab had been cancelled and may not arrive. Fairly standard.
Mr. Cab Driver greeted me with, “Good morning, young Ashley! Which airline are you flying this day?” I was shocked to even get so much as a, “Good morning.” Then his quest for conversation continued.
“Are you a student at the University of Chicago?”
“No, I just live by the University, but work downtown.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. You look like a college student.”
“Where do you work downtown?”
“Lurie Children’s Hospital.”
“Oh, you’re a nurse at the new hospital? I went to the hospital when it was in Lincoln Park because my son needed surgery. You all are very nice and took good care of him.”
“I’m actually not a nurse, but glad to hear you all had a good experience there. Hope your son is doing ok now.”
“Yes, he’s fine. I worked a job I hated in order to get health insurance to pay for surgery for him, and the surgery went fine, and he’s healthy now. I don’t have health insurance with this job, and I like it more, but I’d do another job I hated if I had to. Anything for my family, you know? Are you a social worker, then?”
“No, I’m a chaplain. And, I admire your sacrifices for your family. Your son is lucky to have such a devoted father.”
“Thank you ma’am. And, if you don’t mind my saying so, I’ve never met a young or a female chaplain before. (Hey, I wrote a book about that!) That is an honorable profession but that’s got to be hard sometimes.”
“Yes, but it’s always an honor to be allowed into people’s lives. And, we all need support and need each other at different phases in life.”
“That’s very true. I meet a lot of people in my job, and some obviously need support, and something more. Not more stuff, but more relationships.”
The conversation slowed as he increased speed on I-90. He confirmed my airline again, then quickly, yet safely, arrived at the airport. As I paid with a card, he asked if I wanted to add gratuity. I replied, “Not to the card,” and gave him cash. He thanked me saying, “You must be gracious because you’re a chaplain.” “No, I can’t play the chaplain card on this one,” I said. “I’ve worked various hourly and gratuity jobs the past few years, and I know what it’s like to wonder how much money you’ll make at the end of each shift regardless of how hard you work. And I know what it’s like to wait for tips left on credit cards, so I try to tip in cash whenever possible. It’s my small way of paying it forward.”
I gathered my things and entered the hot mess that is O’Hare Airport, yet again reminded that most people are simply trying to do the best they can to provide for their families and make a better life for their children. Perhaps we’d all be better off with a 20% per day cash investment in the goodness of another person.