After nearly 14 months of picking up total strangers and inviting them into “Red” to take them to or from their home, an airbnb, DIA, school, their job, the 5th bar of the day, or the Denver Zoo, I continue to be amazed as to the ‘Magic’ that can happen in the micro-space of a very ordinary SUV. Just yesterday I was taking two young men from a South Broadway bar, which was a couple of blocks from the church I served, out to a hotel in Old Stapleton. They were college students from The University of Tennessee who were enjoying Denver and the West for their very first time. In the course of the conversation we began to talk about the phenomenon of “Ride Sharing”. One of them said, “When I first heard of the idea five or so years ago I thought ‘That is crazy and creepy—getting into a complete stranger’s car or if you are the driver letting just anybody into your space. Now it seems so natural and somewhat magical’.”
I have pondered the ‘Magic’ that sometimes happens between total strangers as we move through the streets of Denver. When I was working on my doctorate some 20 years ago, I spent a great deal of time looking at the human need to belong. I am now paraphrasing my advisor, Dr. Gary Peluso-Verdend, who said to me “Mark, Daniel Day Williams, the founder of the modern pastoral care movement, believed that the deepest human fear was not ‘not being’ but rather ‘not belonging’.” How is it that total strangers in a matter of moments, sometimes find themselves sharing in real and honest conversations? To quote the old Chief from the movie Little Big Man “Sometime the magic works and sometimes it doesn’t .” When belonging happens for those brief moments in ‘Red’, total strangers get connected.
About two months ago I was driving one beautiful crisp autumn afternoon and I was ‘pinged’. I headed to pick up the rider and a phone call came in showing that the rider was trying to contact me. I hit speaker phone and the man on the other end said, “Mark my name is Ed, I am your passenger and I just wanted you to know that I am blind.” “Ed, this is Mark your Denver Bronco buddy!” “Mark, wow I remember! I can’t wait to see you.” I picked him up and he got in and we picked up where we left off six months earlier.
He begins by asking me the kinds of questions only a friend might ask. “So how are you doing with retirement?” He obviously remembered that in our last ride I told him that retirement was the toughest adjustment I had ever made. I said, “Much better, strangely enough, this Lyft driving has made a big difference.” We than began talking about the Broncos and what we would do to fix the offense. When we were just a few minutes away I then asked him “And how are you doing?” It got very quiet and then he said, “We were doing great until two weeks ago. My wife’s sister was visiting us from Utah. She was driving back home on I-70 and she got a phone call. In answering the phone she rolled the truck and was killed.” He began to cry. After a couple of moments of complete silence he began to tell me about her. We pulled up to his parking lot and I turned off my Lyft app. For the next few minutes a precious time took place.
Then, for the second time in six months I had the privilege of walking Ed to his apartment. This time when we said goodbye we were two men who knew we had shared sacred time together. “I sure hope I get you again Mark.” Mark knows that he will never forget Ed. “Ed, for what it is worth I will be lifting you and your wife up in prayer.” That day Ed and I belonged with each other.
Onward and Upward,