Belonging

I had just finished a sad 15 minute ride with a very broken young woman.  The details are ours; sometimes I assure my riders, “What is shared in Red 🚗, will stay in Red 🚗”.  My head was spinning and my heart  ❤️ hurt. 

“Ping”… time to get focused for the next ride. He came out of a classic suburban ‘new build’ carrying a small backpack, destination: Denver International Airport.  He asked to sit in the front seat which I always welcome.  We had a good laugh because I asked him to pronounce his first name which had an obvious ‘double entendre’.  It was really funny but again— not for public consumption.  He was the one who brought attention to it – “You might guess that my American friends have fun with it”.  He is a software engineer who was headed to the West coast.  He shared that he and his brother both came here from  India 🇮🇳.  His brother lives in the NW and works for a tech Giant.  I asked him if he had any children and he lit up. 

He began to tell me all about his 15 month old son.   “It is harder and harder for me to leave as each week he grows.  He learns so much so fast.  I think he added 20 words to his vocabulary during last trip”.  “Do you speak to him in both English and Hindi”.  “Yes, it is very natural, you realize that’s how we were raised”?  I felt appropriately reminded that I make dumb assumptions all the time.  “So tell me about your parents”. “They are both retired.  My mom was a school teacher and my dad an engineer.  They still live in India.  We go there at least once a year.  They come here now because they have a grandson”.  “So do they like coming here”?  “Not really, for two reasons.  One, they don’t like cold and Two, they get lonely.  They don’t understand Americans’ need for isolation.  People don’t know their neighbors.  It doesn’t make any sense to them.  Where they live everyone is your family.  You get out of your home and you engage with life.  Here people hide from each other”.   We continued our conversation right to the United Airlines drop off curb.  Again, he has the kind of story that both lifts and breaks my heart at the same time. 

I turned off my app and headed on the long ride home.  I was remembering a July day in 1999.  I had just turned 50.  I was in the village of Colima, in El Salvador.   We were on a two week mission trip where we were helping to rebuild a community center that was laid to ruin during the 13 year proxy war between the US and Soviet Union.  It was the site of the first massacre by the National Guard, of unarmed farmers.  Bob and Julie, Dunsmore, great friends from my Alamosa ministry days, were our hosts and coordinating our work.  Bob asked me, “Hey tomorrow get up before sunrise and you and I will drive up to our reforestation project to listen to the birds”.  I am an early riser so the next morning we hopped in his Land Rover and headed through Colima. 

It was 6am and I thought no one would be out. In fact, it was just the opposite.  The village was teaming with life.  Moms getting kids in school uniforms ready to go.  Field workers piling in the back of pickups, joking with each other as they headed out to work. The few shops were open and life was everywhere.  I was jealous.  These people belonged.  They knew each other, were connected with each other.

One thing I have had reinforced again and again as I drive my Lyft car with total strangers: Everyone has a story and a need to belong.

Onward and Upward,

Mark

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