STAR ⭐️

I gave this ride a week ago and I have spent the whole week trying to grasp how I might write about her in three or four paragraphs.  I had just dropped off a delightful woman with the thickest Boston accent I have ever heard. Living 30 years in Colorado had not influenced her diction or her undying love of Tom Brady.  I dropped her off at the huge Amazon warehouse up north.   

The next ride took me to the industrial section north of I-70.  I drove to the back an apartment complex with very confusing directions ( I suspect Siri sometimes makes things up). I parked on one end of a big parking lot.  I saw a young woman in pajamas, carrying a pillow and gym bag coming towards my car.  My first thought was “Looks like she had a rough night”.  She got in my back seat and I thought I noticed a plastic tube at her collar.

The small talk began.  I admit I was confused- the pj’s and all.  “Where are you headed”?  I inquired.  “To dialysis… I wonder why I even keep going”.  The judgmental devil that sits on one of my shoulders was banished for that moment.  She could not have been 30 years old.  I knew whatever came out my mouth next better be from a place of compassion.  “Are you a candidate for a transplant”?  “I had one about 14 years ago.  It gave out recently. I have no kidney”.  She then asked me about my Lyft driving.  “What did you do before this”?  “I am also a pastor”.  There was a noticeable silence.  “Can I ask you a question and you not get mad at me”?  The question itself shook my soul.  I measured my words.  “You can ask me anything, I would be honored to try to answer”. I sensed what was coming. “Why does God let things like this happen to people”? 

“Star, and I don’t speak for God, but I know this, I absolutely believe in free will. If there’s going to be free will, which is necessary for anything like real love, there’s going to be both brokenness and healing, otherwise we are just living out our parts in some cosmic pre-programmed video game to a very cruel audience—‘sh## happens… so does grace’ ”. “I was born with 1/4 of one good kidney. All I do now is go to dialysis every other day, go home and sleep. I am not even sure why I am alive”.  “Were you ever able to go to college”?  “I went for 27 days… it was too hard on my body”.  We talked some more.  She was a gift.  “They are evaluating my situation right now, I guess I will keep going”. “Star, today you are my hero.  This I know – you are loved and adored by God”.  She gathered her things and got out and thanked me. 

A few minutes later the app showed “CONGRATULATIONS You got a $5 Tip”.  It might be the most generous tip I have ever received.

Onward and Upward

Mark

Three Guys

I gave my first shared ride about three years ago, when Lyft came out with a “new program”.  The idea is: A total stranger (me) picks up another total stranger who agrees (for a cheaper ride) to allow another total stranger headed in the same direction, to share the ride.  Initially there were lots of glitches but eventually the algorithm smoothed it out. Now it is not unusual to have three strangers all sharing space in my red car 🚗

Today ride 1 started with a guy headed down on Colorado Blvd to pick up new glasses.  In minutes he tells me he is from the Bessemer neighborhood in Pueblo.  “You went to Central High”?  He did.  “Did you have Dave Marquez as your Chicano Studies teacher”?  “Yes I did, he was the best teacher I ever had. He taught me to walk with my head held high and claim my brown heritage.  Here is the funny part, we always thought we were Spanish/Mexican.  We all took the DNA test and we are Portuguese/Pueblo Indian”. We had a great time talking about our home town. And I have no doubt that my brother-in-law Dave was his best teacher ever. 

The next rider in our car walked into our conversation.  It turned out his family was from Kremling (east of Steamboat) and they have been in Colorado since the 1890’s.  We then all began to talk about the Colorado that is long gone with the huge influx of folk from everywhere.  The current rate of immigration to our area is 350 folk a day. We agreed that even our relatives came from somewhere else… and we also agreed that these folk are welcome if they check their attitude at the border. 

We had a great time laughing at the folks who will pay over $200 a day to ski at Vail and think they have been to Colorado.  We all three agreed that we would not want to live anywhere else, and that the best green chili in the world comes from Pueblo, the best peaches from Palisade, and the most arrogant sports fans are from Boston. 

Onward and Upward,

Mark

“ ‘Green Book’, Road Trips, and NBA Fans”

In case you were in Antarctica last week, “Green Book” won the Oscar for best picture of 2019.  It’s time for some family pride.  Our son-in-law Patrick, is the Editor of this delightful story. Last Sunday night our family and many friends celebrated as we watched our beautiful daughter Stephanie, and Patrick take the final stage. This movie basically tells the unlikeliest story of a ‘record promotion’ road trip taken with an erudite Jazz/Classical pianist, who is African American and his ‘low-grade bouncer/thug’ Italian driver. One of the stars of the show is a 1961 lime green Cadillac, in which much of the dialogue of the movie takes place. The trip takes them through the Jim Crow south.  The Green Book was used by blacks to know where they would be welcomed in that brutally racist world.  About a year ago Patrick shared with us about his working on this project. “It is is a great story, with great actors and director.  I am truly proud to be editing this movie”.  His almost 30 years of persistence in the film industry has been rewarded!!! We are so proud of of you, Patrick.

Something very special can happen in a car conversation.  I have been writing these two years about the magic of sharing time in a car.  I love road trips.  My favorite ever was our 8,300 mile camping road trip to Alaska and back with our kids and my sister and nephew.  I have lived long enough to have all of my kids say, “That was one of the highlights of growing up”.  Next year I plan to take my own road trip through the south after Easter, with my golf clubs in tow. My ideal time would involve a van load of friends going with us.  We will see.

About a month the ago I picked up four young men at a hotel in central Denver. They were headed to the Pepsi Center to see the Nuggets play the Houston  Rockets🚀.  It turned out they were from China and they were going to every NBA city in the US and Canada to see a basketball 🏀 game. They were about half way there.  Thinking of it made me tired and envious.  They confirmed that NBA basketball is very popular in China 🇨🇳.  They were headed to Salt Lake, then Phoenix, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Portland… oh yes with a side trip to Vegas.  ROAD TRIP!!!

Onward and Upward,

Mark

Unexpected Gifts 🎁

So in the middle of Friday LYFT driving I hit a Starbucks drive-thru.  It was the usual eight car line which means ‘Mark – Breathe.’  I had been listening to ‘the news’ and again found myself repeating something I reread recently “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”.  At the current 7,000+ lies in a little over two years, I get a bit weary. 

I pulled up to the window to pick up my order and the woman met me with, “The car in front of you paid for your order”.  In an instance I was no longer mired in the cynicism that was swamping my day.  That single act of random generosity changed my whole mood.

These past few months I have been swept up in one of the most unexpected of gifts.  On Thanksgiving Day we got a phone call from our oldest daughter. “You are going to be grandparents again in May”. There will be 27 years between our oldest grandson and our youngest grand daughter (thank you sonograms).  The best gifts don’t always come on the designated gift days. 

A whole day’s mood was changed by a grande almond milk latte given to me by a driver in a silver car.  The world no longer seemed heading to irretrievable chaos.  I am not sure how to keep from defaulting to hopelessly happy bumper sticker, refrigerator magnet, Hallmark card cliches, so I guess the world just has to live with my eternal optimism.

Random acts of kindness are appreciated. Go be random.

Onward and Upward,

Mark

SNOW Day!!!❄️ ⛄️

This past Monday (my day for Me) I had a massage scheduled 23 miles from my perch in Arvada.  I knew it was snowing so I gave myself 1.5 hours to drive there.  I pulled out on Indiana St. and in 25 minutes I went four blocks.  It was “amateur hour” in the snow lane.  I canceled the massage and thought “I will turn on my Lyft app – Mark to the rescue”. In seven seconds I had a ride.  I called him and told him that Google said it would take me 22 minutes to go the 2.7 miles.  He assured me he had been trying to get a ride for 45 minutes and he was very happy to wait. This ride began a constant string of 12 rides with not one second of time between them.  I was in my element.  My red car 🚗 is the best snow car I have ever driven. In previous storms I have seen 3/4 ton  4wd BA trucks stuck as I waved at them while passing.

On about my fourth ride I took a young gal to Boulder.  It was a 30 minute ride which opened up beautiful story.  She was a recent CU grad.  “My Dad lives in Boulder and my Mom in Taos, NM”.  “Oh, my son lives in Espanola”. “Ha, actually my Mom lives in Espanola too, but nobody here has a clue where that is.   I love it, you are the first person who actually knows about Espanola”. She began to tell me ‘her story’. “I was adopted when I was nine months old, from an orphanage in Calcutta.  So was my brother.   My parents have been amazing, this is all I know”. I asked her “Have you ever wondered what your life would have been like had you not come here”?  “Oh yes, about four years ago my parents sent me on a trip to India.  I loved it but I thought many times, ‘I could have been one of those kids’. All I know is this, and I know nothing about my birth family.  My life is a treasure”.  She radiated a warmth and Zest for life.  I dropped her off at a coffee shop where she worked through her graduation last month.  I said “Here is the deal, I need to make a pit stop and get coffee, will you watch my car”?  When I came out of the WC her boss handed me a glorious coffee. I headed out into the blizzard knowing that there is good everywhere.

Onward and Upward,

Mark

15,000 Rides

No not me, but Tommy, who picked us up last Saturday at DIA. We were coming back from a great time in the Bahamas, flying through a big snowstorm and my first ever “medical—emergency” in the seat right behind me. Now I’ll put in a shameless plug for Lyft and flying out of airports. Why would anyone drive their car, leave it parked, and then pay more than it costs take a Lyft? You get picked up and dropped off at your home and 80% of what you spend goes to a local. So we stepped out on Level 6 and Tommy was right there. I knew he was good when he had our bags loaded faster than I could get to his car. The usual small talk began. “Where were you? Did you have fun”. It came up that I too, drive for Lyft and I proudly said, “I have almost 5,000 rides”. “Well, last week I hit 15,000”. “Wow, a Lyft Super Star”!

We began to compare notes. “It’s not as good as it was when I began three years ago. Too many drivers”. Then I heard a story that makes me proud of my country. Tommy was from the Middle East. “I went to work as a translator for the US Army. It eventually became too dangerous for me to stay there. They brought me to Denver and my wife and I are raising our three kids here. I have a pension from the Army and I do this full time. What I love about it is that I am there for my family when they need me and I set my own hours”. We talked about how 98% of rides are normal and 2% get weird. He asked, “Do you find that apparently ‘rich’ people are the worst tippers? They think you are supposed to do this for them”? “Yep, that is my experience and the best tippers are folk who work in the food service business”. “Exactly”!!!

I was able to say “Thanks for everything you did for our Army. I am glad you are able to make a life for you and your family here”. He replied “This is the best thing that ever happened to me. Driving for Lyft has made me appreciate even more what a great place this is”. We pulled up in front of my home and again, four bags were already to go, on the curb. I joyfully hit the tip button.

Onward and Upward, Mark

10 Observations on Lyfting and Life

Today I celebrate two years of writing “Lyfting Me Up”. Almost every week it has been my joy to have you ride along in my red car. Here are a few things I’ve experienced that I would like to share with you.

1. In 1971, as I began at the Enid State School, Ernestine S, a classic 60- year-old social worker said to a brand new beginning social worker, “Mark- No matter how different these people seem, remember this: they are more like you are, than they are different”. I have now given 4,703 rides to folks who all have something in common.

2. 10 years ago we were all told—“Never accept a ride from a stranger, or let them stay in your home”. The 30-somethings that created Lyft and the likes of airb&b gave a great gift to the world. Friendships abound and complete strangers connect.

3. 98% of riders are responsible and respectful. 2% are jerks.

4. On Friday nights everyone loves the Frank Sinatra channel.

5. 8 out of 10 riders have moved to Denver in the last 4 years. They love

being here. They often ask how I feel about this mass migration. My answer is always the same, “Check your attitude at the border, and give back”.

6. There is NO and I mean NO, excuse for drinking and driving.

7. There is always a noticeable pause when I am asked what I did before

driving for Lyft. “Pastor” is never what they are expecting.

8. Airport rides are the most fun. You hear a lot.

9. People have interesting jobs… the most recent epiphany is that I met

two “Scrum—Masters”. (Social workers for techies, they teach

computer geeks how to work as a team.)

10. There is a deep and connecting spiritual hunger in the vast majority of

folks.

My goal is to hit 5000 rides by Easter!!! Happy 2019. Onward and Upward,

Mark

Don

Image-1It has been a very slow time in my Lyft life.  The reality of Christmas time duties in my life as the pastor of Greeley First Christian Church, has made my hobby as a Lyft driver take a break. Yesterday I gave a handful of rides. One of them was a gift to me.  I picked her up in an old SW Denver neighborhood, she was headed to DIA.   She would meet her family at Lake Geneva in Wisconsin for the holidays.  Somewhere about 20 miles out, she asked me what I do besides Lyft.  This opened up the “I am a pastor” moment which can go in as many directions as a squirrel in the intersection of Alameda and Lincoln.  She said in a very respectful voice, “I am not religious but I need prayers for my sister-in-law Grace.  Yesterday she was in an Uber car that was in a very bad wreck. She survived but has many broken bones.  I sort of feel like I shouldn’t ask but I need to”.  I assured her that her lack of religiosity didn’t matter a whit to God. 

We began a beautiful conversation between two human beings just trying to figure it out and live for the things that really matter.  As she hopped out on Level 6 at DIA, she thanked me and I told her that Grace would be put on prayer list at FCC Greeley, and within five minutes it was out. I thought of how fragile life can be.  I realize from time to time as I am driving people everywhere, that there is risk involved in doing this.

Today exactly 60 years ago,  my brother Don was born. He made it to 20 and then he was killed in an accident on St. Patrick’s Day 1979.  Don was as fine a person as I have ever known. It is important that I remember that he lived and left a brief but powerful impact on those who knew him. Yesterday as I drove away from spending 40 minutes with a total stranger who opened her heart to me, I remembered to pray for Grace, who I do not know.  C S Lewis, when asked why he prayed when his wife died anyway said, “It’s not that prayer changes God, but it changes me”.  I have sent a thousand prayers out there saying to God, “Please tell Don I love and miss him, and that his life, though way too brief, inspires me today”.

My prayer for all of us is:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Onward and Upward,

Mark

The Thin Thread

Forty years ago I sat in a room full of young aspiring pastor/theologians.  We were listening to Dr. Tom Boyd, a dynamic philosopher who had the unique gift of grounding the seemingly esoteric philosophical concepts into real life.  I do remember “cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am – Rene Descartes) from freshman philosophy 101.  I can think 🤔 about most anything any time, for any reason.  So I certainly “am”.  The two things Dr. Boyd said that have stayed with me are: 1) “We better take care of this earth 🌎, it’s the only home we have.   God isn’t making anymore dinosaurs”. 🦖   2) “It’s a thin thread that holds this all together.  If you stop and think about how vulnerable you are, you recognize how much we depend on each other”.  I was reminded of #2 on Monday.

I picked them up at a downtown hotel.  Two dapper airline pilots standing on the curb eager to jump in my car with all their travel gear.  “Thanks for getting here so quickly.  The shuttle that was supposed to pick us up never showed up.  There are some folk flying out of here who hope we get in the cockpit. I know you will do your best through rush hour to get us to DIA”. It was role reversal time. I was in the cockpit and they were strapped in my back seat.  The GPS showed a lot of red on our route (very heavy traffic).  We worked our way out to I-70 and started our conversation.  “Ok what was your worst LYFT ride ever”?  I told them. It’s not suitable blog material, sorry. 

I asked them about their favorite plane to fly.  The both said in unison, “The 757, it is a dream.  Best plane ever made”.  I was doing my best to negotiate traffic, and engage in a spirited conversation.  “Every time I fly over an ocean I have about five minutes of sheer terror.  I realize I am going 600 mph, over a vast ocean, in an aluminum tube made and flown by humans”.  As I said that one of them said, “Not much different than going down Pena Blvd at 70 mph with a half retired pastor”. We laughed and talked about connections and trust.  As they got out of the car 🚗 and thanked me for getting them there safely and on time, we all agreed, “It’s a thin thread that holds this all together”.

Onward and Upward,

Mark

Crystal- an update

Most of my heroes are women. My June 10th blog told the story of Crystal, a single mom, that I gave a Lyft to, in March. She is battling multiple myeloma (a form of bone cancer). As a result of her disease she had to quit working, lost her apartment, and found herself on the edge of disaster, all the while going for chemotherapy at Presbyterian-St. Luke’s. I have stayed in close touch with her as I am selfishly the beneficiary of her grace filled living. We connected the day before Thanksgiving to go shopping. I am happy to report that:

1. She has an apartment

2. A friend gave her a car

3. Her kids are doing well in their new school

4. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, her chemotherapy is WORKING!!! Her

doctor shared that this most recent blast might give her a chance to

“beat it”.

She met me in the King Soopers parking lot at 9th and Downing at 1:30p this past Wednesday. It was sheer chaos inside. Better than any bumper car ride ever. We made our way up and down the isles with an adroitness that made us both smile. First Christian Church in Greeley had told me, “please go fill a big grocery basket for her”. We had fun. She looked at me and said, “ My kids said, ‘Mom, would it be okay if we had your pot-roast instead of turkey’ ”. I told her pot-roast it is!!! She told me her mom does the best pot roast ever. I told her, “Well, maybe in Oklahoma, but my

mom held that title in Pueblo”. So they had pot-roast with potatoes 🥔 , carrots 🥕 , celery , and onions —along with classic dressing and pumpkin pie 🥧 .

We loaded up the trunk of her car with all kinds of delights. She looked at me and said. “Please tell them thank you.” In three weeks I am having the privilege of taking the three of them out for shopping and Christmas fun. Crystal— reflects a light that “overcomes the darkness”.

Onward and Upward, Mark