Four Years of Lyfting

I failed retirement. After 10 months of “freedom” I was ready to jump off my balcony. Two different financial advisors had shared with us that we need to generate $xxx dollars to fund our travel addiction. MK was reading the AARP magazine and said “I think I will try driving for Uber”. I said “What’s Uber”. “You remember – last summer in Columbus, Ohio, Amy and Christian used it. People sign up to use their own car to drive people around”. I thought to myself ‘this will last about a week’. I was wrong, after a bit she was off and rolling. Again I thought ‘maybe she is on to something’. I went to Google and looked it up. Lyft also came up. The Lyft “become a driver” promo sold me. “Be yourself. Have Fun. Invite people to sit in the front seat. Be your own boss”. Secondly, the driver reviews were overwhelming pro Lyft. I signed up.

I gave my first ride four years ago this week. My retirement depression fog began to Lyft. Within a couple of weeks I was rolling. I currently have a

⭐ 5.00 rating and 5,384 rides. I have put over 90,000 Lyft miles on my red car .🚗Thanks to some encouragement from my friend Jim S. and

daughter Amy and son Mateo, I started this blog. As I sit in a parking lot writing this on a beautiful October Saturday, I have already given five rides and made $44.04. In no clear order these are some of the things I have learned driving complete strangers:

* most people are very grateful and say “thanks for the ride” * Scooters are Everywhere… no one saw it coming

* Blue collar folks are the best tippers

* Most riders have moved here in the last three years

* The rare “native” is amazed to have a driver with the same pedigree * Nothing is cruder than four drunk girls on a bachelorette party

* The entire Metro area is UNDER CONSTRUCTION

* You never know when a person’s story will move you to the depths * Lyft is a great company which is constantly trying to do better

* Airport rides are a reward you can’t count on

* I gave William my longest Lyft ride ever this week—75 miles

* Clean restrooms are really appreciated

* Take time to take a walk

* I love immigrants … they have great stories

* At least I am keeping these drunk idiots off the road

* Police rea🚔lly appreciate ride share

* Today’s 1948 house will be tomorrow’s four-unit condo

* I do this because I love to do it and need to for my own mental health

* 98% of people are really decent… and the jerks come in all shapes,

sizes, colors, genders and from the East Coast.

* People are blown away when I am asked “are you a native”, and my

answer is “my great-grandparents moved here in 1873 from Kentucky. Everyone comes from somewhere else.”

I want to thank all my readers for your encouragement. You are more than kind.

Onward and Upward, Mark

Lupe

Every so often I get a ping, followed by a text message that reads like “This ride is actually for my father. He speaks very limited English, his name is Lupe”. I recognized the address as belonging to the hospital complex at Denver Health. I pulled into the pick up zone at a dialysis clinic. There he was smiling at me in a pretty frail body. He got in the car and we headed to the Park Hill district about 25 minutes away. He thanked me for picking him up. “My English is not so good”. “Well, I speak ‘Spanglish un poquito”. He laughed and asked me if I liked driving for Lyft. “I love it, it connects me with what’s going on. So what are you doing”, ( I had sort of put 2 and 2 together.) “Oh just 16 years of dialysis… my life is tv and reading, and my grandkids. I live with my daughter”. “Wow, 16 years, you are tough. Any chance of a transplant”? “I am on the list, but you know” he said with his strong accent and an air of resignation.

“So what did you do before all this”? “I drove a bus for 36 years in Juarez.

You know – El Paso”. “I have been all over Mexico , I spent the winter of

1970 running around there looking for Don Jaun”. (If you get it I won’t explain and if you don’t, that’s what google is for.) “Wow a bus driver in Mexico – that makes my Lyft driving look like riding a bike”. “I loved it”. “Six days a week”? “That’s right and Sunday for God” he said with a giant smile. “Now God gets everyday but I still worship on Sunday”. The conversation was like talking to some of the folk I used to connect with in the San Luis Valley. I told him about working with migrant workers in the health clinics. “I have a deep admiration for ‘mi amigos’ from Mexico. This is one gringo who is embarrassed by how you are put down by our President”. “Gracias, my friend. You could drive a bus”. “Nah, I am too old. Tell, God Hi tomorrow”. He grinned and reached across the seat to shake my hand. Lupe is a good man, Lord – help him get a new kidney.

Onward and Upward, Mark

Ahmed

A month ago I went on a two-day whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C. to advocate for refugees. It seems that the current administration’s view of our longstanding desire to do our share in welcoming refugees, has been seriously challenged. I was part of a four-person Colorado delegation made up of three clergy types, and a woman who came to Denver at age three as a refugee from Viet Nam. This was not an issue that I had paid much attention to, but as Ken Buck is the congressman representing Greeley and I am a pastor there, someone thought I might be useful. I am not sure how useful I was but in a very short time I learned a lot. I will say this about Ken Buck, I went to his office not wanting to like him. Although there are many issues we see differently, on this particular issue we stand together. I really did like Congressman Buck.

He told us the story of the “packing plant” raid where literally overnight hundreds of workers in Weld County were rounded up. Ken was the DA at that time. These workers were replaced by refugees from Somalia. “At first we had lots of challenges, like ‘yes, your 14 year-old daughter has to go to school.’ I can now say they have been a gift to our community”. He has agreed to help pass pro refugee legislation. I was able to share about Greeley First Christian’s connection with the Guatemalan community. This is how democracy is supposed to work.

The night before Rev. Joan and I went to Capital Hill, we met a group of young activists in an after-session. We took a 25-minute Lyft ride back into the heart of DC. Our driver, Ahmed, was an engaging young man. As we were driving along we asked him where he was from. “I am a refugee from Afghanistan. I worked with the US military and we decided I needed to take my wife and apply for refugee status”. “I can’t imagine what you have seen”. “I have seen plenty…Unspeakable horrors would sum it up. I am here now. I love this country. I get to become an American”. He told us of his wife and two small children. He talked about how driving for LYFT was teaching him so much about us and how grateful he was for the job. Our hearts were truly ‘LYFT-Ed’ as we shared a slice of our lives together. We told him that we were there to advocate for refugees. “Well, this is one person who is beyond thankful to be here”.

Oh, that we can still remain the home of the brave and the land of the free.

Onward and Upward, Mark

Daddy

I picked him up at the RTD Denver International Airport Train Station off of 40th Street. It was one of those pickups where Google’s directions don’t match up with the facts. We finally connected, a hipster with appropriate beard and backpack hopped in my back seat. It was about a 10 minute ride to his home which was just north of City Park. Withoutprompting he said “I used to live downtown. My rent was $850 for a studio. I came back three years later and the same place was $1650. So I found a duplex out here. I loved living downtown but who can afford it”? We began chit chat about the current state of disarray in our world. I made my assessment of who he was— self absorbed millennial—.

We pulled up to the curb by his home and little girl who looked about five came running down the sidewalk. She jumped up in his arms and yelled out “Daddy you’re finally home. I missed you so much”! Yes, my emotions came to the surface. I was beyond happy for the two of them and I went deep into my memory bank about not just reunions with my kids, but how it felt to see my dad’s white ‘53 Chevy pickup come down Alexander Circle. The deepest human need is connection. The deepest human fear is loss of belonging.

I was 100% wrong about this 30-something. My assumptions melted as I watched this daddy swing his little girl around and around. If I give 10 Lyft rides in an afternoon I will almost always find myself saying “What a gift it was to share a bit in this person’s day”. I think I will call my kids today.

Onward and Upward, Mark

Joy

Joy 🤩

After a month of amazing travel I got back to my Lyfting. Yesterday (Friday) was a reminder that I love doing this for the connections with folk that I encounter. I could write about any one of the 10 rides I gave but to not share with you about this most remarkable young woman would feel like winning the lottery and keeping it a secret. It was ride #9, I had just dropped off a Denver newcomer at the Botanical Gardens and I got “pinged” for a pick up in the same spot. She hopped in the front seat and the destination said Denver International Airport. This seemed strange as she had no luggage. “This was my stopover on the way to Utah, what a beautiful place”. Without me asking she said, “I am taking a break from my Master’s thesis. I just need to clear my head and go hiking in Utah”. She told me she was from south Texas where the ruby red grapefruit come from. I said “Brownsville” ? With a bright smile she said “Exactly”.

What transpired in the next 40 minutes was one of the most engaging and inspiring moments in my almost-four-year Lyft career. When I told her about this blog she gave me complete permission to share about our connection… in fact she hinted she would be honored. When she told me she was from south Texas I assumed by her brownish skin and almost black hair she was Hispanic. Wrong!!! She is the child of Lebanese refugees who came here as a result of that war. She is getting her Masters in sustainability relating to agriculture, specifically how ‘heavy metals’ are affecting what we eat. We covered topics from the environmental crisis, matters of faith and spirit, biblical contextual conversations, to my recent trip to DC to do work on behalf of refugees.

About 10 minutes from the end of the ride I asked, “Tell me your name again please”. With a most radiant smile that reflected being in her presence she said simply, “Joy”. She lives up to her name. Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy is a gift of the Spirit. It is the response to the profound beauty of existence and life. I dropped her off at the curb and we both knew that something special happened between two strangers. We said goodbye, I looked at her and said “This makes me sad”. I thought as I drove off how much I have sucked in my life at saying goodbye. Then I thought of the Navajo saying “In Beauty it is Finished”.

Onward and Upward,

Mark … I am really glad to be driving and writing aga

Marion

Marion—Never took a Lyft

A 95 year old woman passed to the other side today. One of the privileges of spending the last 40+ years in pastoral ministry are the times I have gotten to spend with widows in their 80’s-90’s. If I ever write a book about my life in the church, I might title it “The Strongest People I have ever known— are little old Ladies”. A little over two years ago I made the standard pastoral visit to meet Marion. Marion, who “let go” this afternoon was grace, beauty, wisdom, humor, and ornery wrapped up in what ended in a 78 lb body. To be in her presence was the essence of grace, joy, wit and wisdom.

Marion ran a pre-school in her home. I have heard many stories from Weld County folk about how she helped to shape their children as they began to live life independently from home. She was a great story teller, the essence of Colorado, made up of farmers, miners, ranchers, steel workers, shop keepers, field workers and “live and let live” Western grit. Just last week an 89 year old guy said, “Our four year old daughter was very shy and afraid of most anything or anyone outside of home. We sent her to Marion’s preschool. In no time at all she was meeting the world, and it has never stopped”.

She died at home. Last Sunday I had taken her communion which we shared with the living room that was full of family and friends. She said, “Well Pastor Mark, I am in hospice. I will stay here and if it comes to where I need to go to the care center, so be it. I am ready”. We gathered in a circle and I said, “Marion, what would you like us to sing”? She pondered and then said, “You can’t beat ‘Jesus Loves Me’.

Jesus Loves me this I know, For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, They are weak,

But he is Strong!!!

Marion never took a Lyft… but her whole life lifted others. Onward and Upward,

Mark

Hot July

4 Rides on a Friday Summer afternoon

Ride1– Llama Racer— I picked her up in the midst of a very busy downtown afternoon. She hopped in the car and began a pleasant interchange. “I have got to get home because we are going to the Burro Races in FairPlay this weekend. My boyfriend has a cabin up there and we went last year. I had no idea how much fun it is. Now what I am really excited about is the Llama race on Saturday. Last year I took 4th place”. She the explained to me that people think they ride them, but just like in the Burro race they carry a pack. I said, “I knew the inside story of Llama racing. 25 years ago she sent our four nephews and our son on a 1 week Llama trek in the San Juans”. She than began to ask me lots of questions about growing up in Colorado and how I felt about all the change. I said, “As long as it keeps bringing in people like you I am all in. Be sure to drink the right fluids before the race”. She laughed and said, “This year I am shooting for 3rd”.

Ride 2–The Almost Bride— She had one of those names that can be either gender. I was to pick her up on East Colfax which means it could really stretch the Bell Curve. I pulled up at a stop sign looking north across Colfax. Siri had my passenger standing right on a spot in on the corner of an alley. There stood a most elegantly dressed young woman who looked like she was going to 4pm tea at the Brown Palace. She was looking at her cell phone, which is a Big Clue in Lyft world. I called her to confirm and tell her I would pull in the alley for safety. She got in the back seat and with my saying a word she said, “I am headed downtown to my rehearsal dinner. I am getting married tomorrow”. I replied, “I love doing weddings, I have performed over 500 in the past 45 years. The conversation took off. “What advice would you give me”? “Well, first of all have fun tonight and tomorrow, you are with your best friend. Don’t be in a hurry, let life come to you. Travel, play, take lots and lots of walk. My wife and I figured in the last 35 years we have walked together around the earth 🌍 at the equator”. “Thanks, this has really been a gift, I still have to write my vows, you really helped”. She hopped out in front on the restaurant and thanked me very graciously. I said, “Your best friend is getting beauty from the inside out”.

Ride 3– A Mechanic— He got in the front seat and we began a 30 minute ride to the SW. Quickly he told me “I am a mechanic who thought because I loved working on my car as a kid and I am really good at it that I would love working full time on cars… nope. After 9 years I am creating my exit plan. I am in my second year at Red Rocks Community College and I hope to go to either Colorado School of Mines or CU to become a mechanical engineer”. We had a very honest and real conversation about life, values, change and yes God. We pulled up in front of his house and there was a beautifully restored green Volvo. “Is that your work”? “Yep his name is Terry, I have had it since high school. It’s the one car I won’t ever sell”. “Well, I have no doubt a grey haired old engineer will take it on Sunday drives in those mountains”. GIANT SMILE

Ride 4– Two Forty something moms headed to a concert— I picked them up right after the mechanic. They were headed 17 miles to Fiddler’s Green to hear Jason Aldean and Kane Brown, I have no idea who they are but they were girl giggly over them. I often play Sirius #26 Classic Vinyl on weekend Lyft runs. I was thrilled when Crosby, Stills and Nash came on with “Teach The Children”. I said, my last concert was at Red Rocks with those guys. The all had to sit on stools”. “Who are they, we have never heard them”. I almost pulled into the Sunnybrook Assisted Living Center to check myself in. I just said, “Well, I just turned 70… I guess this my life from here on”.

Onward and Upward,

Mark

Seventy

Birthdays are usually something I enjoy. When I turned four I had a “firecracker” 💥💥💥””” cake 🎂, and a

backyard full of kids playing in plastic swimming pools. The day I turned 16 I passed my drivers exam, and I had already saved up enough money to buy a car. I turned 18

in Belgium$ , where the Lecocq family hosted an

amazing dinner in my honor. I realized on that 2nd day in Europe that the world was way bigger than Pueblo. I turned 21 in Boulder, and let’s just say it was a “Rocky Mountain High”. I still remember the fresh hot baked sunflower bread at the local bakery named (I am not making this up) “Magnolia ThunderPus___y’s”. 30 – on Gerald Ediger’s farm, he had taken in this ‘recently made single’ dad and his two kids, two and five. We had a tire swing hanging from a huge tree. 40 – was a real gift at our mini farm in Alamosa, I was two years in recovery and I was present. 50 — I was rebuilding a community center with a group from South Broadway CC in El Salvador. 60 – I don’t remember (a sign of things to come). 70 – this past Tuesday, where I went on a great hike in Eldorado Canon State Park. My day was made by the folks at my credit union who told me that I looked great for an old guy. Yes, turning Seventy is messing with me.

70 is—

***A great golf score (never come close)

***An average basketball score for college

***Just getting started for a Galapagos Tortoise

***20 ft for a Sequoia

***Times 7 for how I have to forgive

***The decade of without a doubt “THE BEST MUSIC” ever!!!

***The passing score for Dr. Glen Rose’s Biblical Content Exam, which was my exact score — you had to pass it to Graduate

***The only temperature MK and I can agree on

***The number of Hot Dogs Joey Chestnut shoots for in the world hot dog eating contest

***1-70 construction project— a never ending nightmare *** a gift

I am aware that I am living an amazing life. Statistics say that a man has a really great chance of making 80 if he gets to 70. That will only matter if I make today count.

Onward and Upward, Mark

Under Repair

Last week I was headed out of town with my grandson Miko on a road trip to Enid, America (Oklahoma). Miko had agreed to go with me to the headwaters of my college life for a Phillips University reunion. Phillips closed 20 years ago, and I’m not sure I have yet fully recovered from the sadness that I thought I would never have to feel. Anyway, we were headed down 17th St. going to I-70. I was in the left lane of three lanes. At Franklin Street a big A__ truck decided to make a left turn from the center

lane… crunch, crackle, damn!!! We were able to drive RED 🚗 — on through a most verdant last day of spring. We had a fantastic time,

however RED is now sidelined until we can get it fixed. I guess it’s a good time to take a breather from Lyfting and focus on all the things I can do in Colorado in the summer time. I am dealing with two insurance companies, a repair shop and a timeline that I don’t control.

Onward and Upward, Mark

Carpet Cleaner

In 1964 after completing my freshman year my dad informed me I was going to work at the family owned business—Cleaver Carpet Center. I said, “But I planned on playing baseball, going to the pool and being 15. Instead, I got to ride my bike to work at 6:30 in the morning, prepare the previously washed area rugs for delivery, and head out to return them, picking up another 12-15, cleaning homes with wall-to-wall carpet, scrubbing the haul from the day, and figuring out how to survive the 100’ Pueblo summers. I often worked 55 hours a week for $1.15 an hour. I got an awakening of how people live. The good, the bad, the… !!! The good news is that I made a lot of money, which allowed me to buy a car. I did this four years in a row and my learning curve went far ahead of most of my peers.

I picked up Justin at 5:30am, at Regis University. He hopped in and we began a vulnerable interchange. I asked him what he did all night at Regis. “I clean floors – wax and strip, carpets, hardwoods, and whatever else. I moved here to take care of my mom”. “Is she sick”? “She is mentally ill. Nobody in the family wants her, it’s either me or the streets”. We began a very honest interchange about bi-polar, Schizophrenia, addictions and all the other challenges she faces. He was in no way resentful or a victim. We talked about cleaning floors, and how quickly feet make them dirty. “I really appreciate this job because I can do it at night when she stays in”.

He was very bright and I doubted that this is a career for him. “So what are your dreams”? “To get my mom to a place where she can be safe. Right now I am it. It’s ok, I read a lot, have a couple of great friends, and she is safe”.

The world could use a few more folks who quietly serve and clean up and take care of our messes.

Onward and Upward, Mark