Grace and Brokenness

Yesterday was my Friday afternoon Lyft gig. I picked Greg up on S. Santa Fe at a warehouse. He was headed to the north end of downtown. He engaged me right away in the “how long have you been driving for Lyft, do you like it, what did you do before this”? questions. It opened up what he does. He works for a non profit that provides portable showers and laundry for homeless folk. “It’s a point of connection to try to get them off the streets and back to work. We are having some success”. We were headed to a United Way Center which is located in the center of both rapid gentrification and a growing population of homeless folk who stay in the many shelters and “camp” in every nook and cranny. I have seen this situation grow exponentially in my four years of Lyfting

I no more than dropped him off than I got a ping at the same facility but a different entrance. I was called by a man who explained that I was picking up a United Way client and taking her to an emergency shelter on E. Colfax. He met me in the drive through drop off zone. He introduced me to a young woman who had a number of bandages on her head. Her eyes showed fear and sadness. We talked for a moment and I assured him I was comfortable with the 15 minute ride. She got in the back seat but I had a clear view of her tears.

We drove silently through the streets of north Capital Hill. I was playing Coffee House on my Sirius radio. I don’t know the song but it was the soft sweet voice coming out my back seat that was filling in the space of our silence. I could see her bruised face on her 20-something body as her lips sang the words. It was hard not to say anything but I think she just needed to sing. We pulled up to the emergency shelter. She grabbed her backpack and got out of the car. All I could say was “Take care of yourself and thanks for sharing the song”. She has a name… it’s Shelby.

Onward and Upward, Mark

Cash Tips

In 1979 I found myself as a single parent with two little kids, trying to figure out my life in a world I had never planned to live in. I had shared custody with my kids’ mom. By day I was the Senior Chaplain at a huge state institution for the disabled, but I needed something to do on the three or four nights a week when I was home alone. I thought maybe I could be a waiter. I went down and talked with Jerry A., who owned “The Peppermill” which was ‘the place to be’ during that current oil boom in Oklahoma. If you haven’t lived in a boom town it was a lot like Silver City, NV during the gold rush… lots and lots of money and free spending. Jerry was game to bring on his staff a “preacher/waiter”. I soon learned a new trade.

I had the kids most every Sunday, through Wednesday morning. I would get them to day care and preschool and then be “daddy” each evening. Then from Wednesday to Saturday evening I was double dipping as a chaplain/ waiter. I found I could carry a tray over my shoulder with five flaming ‘Surf n’ Turfs’. Very soon it became apparent to me that I was often making as much in a week serving folks, as I did in a month working for the state with a Masters degree. It was nothing to have a few thousand dollars in my sock drawer. Tipping took on a new meaning. Everyone should have to work as a server for a year or so. You learn a whole lot.

It was 34 years later that ‘tipping’ reentered my world. Lyft drivers are often tipped, and though it is never expected it is always appreciated. Most people tip through their phone on the Lyft App. At the end of a week Lyft totals up your tips and includes it in your weekly pay. However, occasionally people hand you a cash tip which is a real affirmation of a good ride. On Monday I had three different rides hand me some ones. I put the wad of ones in my jacket pocket, completely forgetting about them. I do remember each ride. 1. An older woman who used Lyft to go shopping. She smiled and patted my hand as she tipped me. 2. A man that I picked up at a Longmont hospital. Insurance companies are now contracting with Lyft for patient transportation. He was a very frail man. I remember thinking “please don’t pass out in my front seat”. It was a quiet ride, I watched him struggle to put on his seat belt. Life had not been easy, I guess. I pulled up in his driveway and asked if he needed any help. “No thanks, but this is for you” (five ones). 3. Was in old town Arvada, a group of three “boomers” out for lunch. The guy in the group sat in the front seat. He shared he was from Serbia. “Nikola Jokic” AKA ‘the Joker’. FYI— he is a 4th year Denver

Nugget basketball player whose skills and character are without parallel. My rider told me of the small town he was from. He was thrilled that his local kid was in ‘my fandom wheelhouse’. I loved his Slavic accent. As they left he also handed me a few ones.

Today, Saturday I have a routine; I buy coffee at Dunkin Doughnuts, I go to AA at 7am at York St, I get my car washed at Waterworks, then go to an OA Big Book study at 9. I had enough dollar bills to cover it all, including a tip at the car wash. I love tipping with tip money— here is a tip — keep the money flowing— tip on!!!

Onward and Upward, Mark

Terminal

There are some lessons I have to learn again and again. In the “don’t judge a book by the cover” category I go back to 1st grade on a very regular basis.

I love driving on snowy days for these reasons- *** I grew up driving in snow and my 2015 Mitsubishi Sport was ranked a top snow and ice car.*** the Lyft drivers who rent the sedans are snowphobic, *** demand goes through the roof, ***people are genuinely grateful for rides. We had quite the “Halloween snow week” here.

Last Monday I picked up a guy standing on the corner moving from side to side trying to get warm. As he got in the car I noticed a TRUMP 2020 hoodie. The little voice in me said “Mark— this is not the occasion”. We headed on a 15 minute ride to his home.

He began to engage pretty quickly with me about my life. “Wow, you are a very blessed man with a very full life. I have a terminal disease with a couple of years left. I have this cousin who I have known my whole life. He is perfectly healthy and all he can think about is doing nothing. I don’t get it”. He began to expand in a very colorful way (lots of F-bombs) about this cousin and his wasting of his life. “I have a friend who was in an ‘almost famous’ rock band who wrote a song I love – “You Are Either Living to Die or Dying to Live”. The door was opened for us to get very real. “This is why I drive for Lyft. Prophets like you, tell me what I need to hear”.

Then he said “You probably noticed my Trump gear”? I said, “Yep, and we aren’t going to go there”. “What did you do before driving for Lyft”. “Well, I have been a pastor for 47 years. Please don’t apologize for your honesty and the swearing. You are an inspiration. That song title will preach…as we pastors say”. I pulled up in front of his house. He didn’t want to leave.

He thanked me too many times for being there in the snow . As he got out I said “Go Live… we are all terminal, you are a good man”.

Onward and Upward, Mark

Kicked Out

It was a picture perfect Autumn day. The leaves were in what I

call my favorite color “Fall”. I was going down Speer Blvd when I got pinged with a note, “This is Stacy – you will be picking up Wayne at the curb”. I thought “Great, an easy pick up”. Wayne was there with a box of stuff. We put it in the back of my car and headed to the destination Stacy had selected. “So how’s your day”? Silence— then the 30-something guy in the front seat starts crying. “She kicked me out… I had no idea. My stuff was in this box and she told me she had ordered a Lyft. She was at work and basically told me to hit the road”. The pastor in me kicked in and I listened as he told me all of his regrets. I thought to myself, “I have been on both sides of this equation… I would always rather be the leaver than the left. Guilt better than rejection”. We pulled up to some place in north Denver. Wayne took his box, still crying. I drove off with Paul Simon singing ‘50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’ rolling in my head.

A couple of rides later I got round two of “girl kicks out boy”. Vic was just angry. “And then she tells me there is a Lyft for you, we are done”. My head was spinning. Were these two women in the same “Throw the bum out” support group? Wayne I felt sorry for. Vic, however, had jerk written all over him. I thought “Did the Lyft algorithm put on sad sack watch? What are the odds of two of these on the same beautiful afternoon”?

In the you-never-know-what’s-coming-in-Lyft-world,I have had my share of broken hearts. My next ride was a couple going to the County Building to get their wedding license. Go figure.

Onward and Upward, Mark

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