I was doing one last ride on this past gorgeous Sunday afternoon. I picked her up near Denver University. Her destination was the Brown Palace. I immediately did my “Oh my, another privileged non-Native invader off to spend her Daddy’s money.” I don’t know about you, but I am in an ongoing conversation with my internal judgmental jerk and my gracious and accepting lover of life and people. It soon became apparent that I was WRONG. Early in the course of the conversation, she shared that she had grown up in the neighborhood in which I had picked her up. She shared that she had gone to a private Christian School and then to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I knew that Calvin College, not to be confused with Calvin Coolidge (our last Presidential disaster), was a reputable church related small college. Mark’s internal judger started down wrong path #two.
I knew that this college had a reputation of being aligned with conservative politics. I have no problem with conservatives as long as they are willing to enter into constructive dialog and problem solving. Simply, ideology can kill. I have been very vocal in my disdain about the marriage with what we have come to know as, Evangelicalism with the Republican party. My dad, Bill, said in 1992, “It is a marriage made in Hell and will be the undoing of both.” I asked her where she was with her faith these days, and she said, “I am deeply troubled by the mean spirited attitudes and the way supposed Christians treat certain people. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jesus but I am turned off by much of what I see done in his name.” My answer was simple, “That would be two of us.”
We worked our way downtown as we talked back and forth about two topics: 1. How it feels to be a native in a city that is currently welcoming up to 350 people a day, and 2: Our struggles with the hijacking of Christianity to serve mean spirited exclusive politics. Somewhere in the conversation she mentioned her grandfather and his similar journey. I asked, “Is he still living?” “No” she said, “He died yesterday after a struggle with Alzheimers. It was awful. I am looking forward to being with my friends at tea, it has been too much.” I replied, “I am sorry for your loss, with that awful disease there are really two deaths. The death of the person, and the death of the body.” She acknowledged, “That is so true. He was such a special man it was hard to watch.” We drove in silence for a couple of minutes. I then enquired, “Tell me about your grandfather.” She told me a lot about him and then she said, “He was a long time recovering alcoholic. AA was very important to him. I guess it truly brought out the best in him. It really the only way I ever knew him.” I replied, “This year, by the grace of God and AA I will have 30 years. The only grandpa my grandkids know is the one in recovery.” “They are blessed to have you like that” she answered.
I then told her about writing this blog and would she care if I shared our conversation. She quickly replied, “Please do.” We continued on in a very honest give and take until I pulled up to the green awnings on the west side of the Brown Place. She got out and thanked me. I told her this conversation had made my day. She smiled and headed into Afternoon Tea. I turned off my app and parked my car. I pondered what I had just experienced, a holy moment with another human being. Every expectation I had about the ride was turned on its ear. To top it off, I found out that she is an RN at the VA, which in nursing world deserves combat pay. My wife Mary Kay, spent 13 years working there and I have heard her share what it is like to sit up all night with a Vet who is reliving Omaha Beach, or Korea, or Viet Nam, or Iraq, or Afghanistan. I realized that in one 20 minute ride we moved from smug Colorado natives, to politics and religion, to grief and death and the casualties of war, and finally recovery. Welcome to my Lyft Life.
I had a seminary professor who began every class with the same mantra. “Be kind to the people you meet; they are having a hard time.”
Onward and Upward,
(Next week: “What and who is a Native?”)