Inspirational Stories: The Cab Ride


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By Dr. Kent Nerburn

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.

It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss.

What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry.

Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, and made me laugh and weep.

But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night. I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partiers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.

When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.

Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.

But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation.

Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.

So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knick-knacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

“It’s nothing," I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy," she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she answered.

“There are other passengers.”

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Excerpted and adapted from Kent Nerburn's book, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace, published by HarperOne. For more information on Kent and his work, visit his websites at and

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  • 360
    You are an Angel in disguise. It really bothers me when I see a senior being ignored or treated badly. I like you think about how I would want my mother or father treated and I try to be positive and kind to them. My parents are no longer living and I truly believe if you have them around be kind to them and all seniors. God bless you. - 12/9/2014   2:41:34 PM
  • 359
    What a touching humble story. God bless you!! Thanks for sharing. You showed me how to be more patient and humble. - 11/28/2014   1:37:04 PM
  • 358
    Hello,your story is so moving! *I felt tears coming to my eyes.*My father now 83 used to be a cab driver years ago...I'm sure he had similiar experiences...He was always helping people...I'm glad you brought "joy and comfort" to her....She might have felt you were sent by God.May God continually to Bless you...Thank you for sharing your story with us - 6/1/2010   7:49:12 PM
  • TSK0128
    I was so inspired and saddened by this beautiful story. If we all would live our lives like this, the world would be a more gentle and kind place! May God bless you for being a blessing to others! - 5/13/2010   2:03:51 PM
  • 356
    I took care of my elderly grandmother, who had Alzheimer's, for a couple of years before her condition worsened and a very nice home was the best option for her.

    Being that old and perhaps in bad condition is so scary to me. It makes me feel a bit less afraid to realize that the world can indeed be a kind place. I'm only 31, perhaps too young for those thoughts, but seeing my grandmother go through what she did kind of changed my thinking, as your encounter with the lady changed yours.

    Thank you for sharing, and for being there for her. - 5/1/2010   1:16:37 PM
  • 355
    Thank you for sharing, it brought tears to my eyes, It is so important to treat everyone they way you want to be treated at every moment in your life.
    Each one of us have that opportunity daily, if we choose to see it and live it. Way to go.... - 4/28/2010   12:16:09 PM
  • 354
    beautiful entry. thank you for putting your good karma into the world. - 4/28/2010   11:52:18 AM
  • 353
    beautiful - 4/27/2010   9:23:24 AM
    Thank You for sharing, God Bless and Keep you - 4/24/2010   1:28:21 PM
  • 351
    This is a very touching story. You did a beautiful thing. - 4/21/2010   11:49:01 AM
    This reconfirms my belief that god is always there to help you. - 4/17/2010   3:42:27 PM
    At a moment when I was finding it difficult to be selfless this story reminded me of who I really am and want to be and set aside a selfish and resentful attitude which I had been trying to deal with for a shle. Thanks for sharing your experience . - 4/16/2010   2:59:07 PM
  • 1THING
    Surely your act was that of an angel being guided by God. Thank You and may God bless you. I shall always remember this. - 4/15/2010   7:45:28 PM
    What a beautiful story! - 4/12/2010   1:41:51 PM
  • 346
    I am glad I am at home, so I can cry without bothering my male co-workers. Thank you so much for the way you treated this older woman. It means so much. - 4/12/2010   2:37:37 AM
  • 345
    What a beautiful story! Brought tears into my eyes. I have my dad who is 90 and my mom turning 80 this October. I didn't know caring people are still around in this day and age. Thank you for sharing. - 4/11/2010   10:03:10 PM
  • 344
    oh man, i was raised by my grandparents, this made me cry much. thanks brother xoxoxo
    - 4/11/2010   12:31:19 PM
  • 343
    beautiful - 4/11/2010   10:28:18 AM
    Thank you. - 4/11/2010   9:01:49 AM
    Sometimes we don't realize a "great moment" is happening to us until it's gone. Very touching story - 4/10/2010   2:12:02 PM
  • 340
    Thank you for the story. It reminds me of what I love about my job as a nurse in a nursing home. - 4/10/2010   11:19:10 AM
  • 339
    Thank you for this beautiful and inspirational story. You are a wonderful human being. - 4/10/2010   11:08:58 AM
  • 338
    Beautifully written. What a touching story. Thank you so much for sharing. - 4/10/2010   3:22:41 AM
    Wow! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!!! What a story! - 4/9/2010   3:06:56 PM
  • CEEJAY30
    This is a very touching story. I gave it to my husband to read - he used to drive cab some years ago and he felt the same as I did.
    We don't hear enough about the "good people" in our world. - 4/9/2010   10:08:46 AM
  • 335
    Wonderful story..
    We all need to remember and apply the Golden Rule to our daily lives.

    - 4/9/2010   10:07:25 AM
  • 334
    Beautiful story. In the end it is not our bank account that tells about us but moments/stories like this that tells of our character. That is how we are remembered. How we make people feel. - 4/9/2010   6:22:08 AM
  • CHEZE07
    awesome reminder of how to treat strangers - 4/8/2010   11:00:00 PM
    Thank you for an amazing story. You're the best! - 4/8/2010   5:23:39 PM
    This article has made yet another person cry at work... So touching. - 4/8/2010   4:14:34 PM
  • 330
    Truly inspiring and touching and life changing. - 4/8/2010   3:58:08 PM
  • 329
    Oh man - I shouldn't have read this at work - I'm crying! - 4/8/2010   1:23:30 PM
  • 328
    A story we all can learn from. - 4/8/2010   10:31:25 AM
    Very touching. - 4/8/2010   9:26:06 AM
  • 326
    Like everyone else who read this story, I was deeply touched. Thank you so much for treating that woman like the wonderful human she was. There is a special place in heaven for people like you. thank-you - 4/8/2010   2:44:46 AM
  • 325
    What a wonderful human being you are, Sir. If everyone were like you, it would be a peaceful world, a world that works for everyone. I cried reading this story, like everyone else. It touches a chord in our humanity. May we all pass your kindness along. Your book is inspiring as well. I can see St. Francis smiling down at you as his beloved child in spirit. Thanks so much for sharing! - 4/7/2010   10:15:17 PM
  • JUST724
    I was feeling a little blue today and came here to be inspired. Well, after reading this story, the tears that I have held back all day just flowed easily across my cheeks.

    Life is so short and we hurry through each day filled so tightly that we hardly stop to appreciate life's simple pleasures. Tomorrow if I rise from my sleep, I will be one year older and will stop by Borders to pick up this book as a birthday gift to myself. Hopefully, within the pages will be more stories that remind me to slow down. - 4/7/2010   6:48:47 PM
    Omg I'm tearing up. What a beautitful touching story - 4/7/2010   4:00:45 PM
  • 322
    Thank you for sharing such a memorable moment between two strangers. - 4/7/2010   10:46:38 AM
    Thank you for a great reminder. We are always given the chance to be on the right path, whether we choose to travel it or not is our free will. - 4/7/2010   10:45:08 AM
  • 320
    Wow - what a truly beautiful thing to have done. The power of a moment in time shared with a stranger can be the most powerful lesson for any one of us. Thank you for sharing. - 4/7/2010   8:20:45 AM
  • 319
    Thank you Dr Kent for the beautiful story I think I went though a pack of tissue. Your story reminded me of why I enjoyed driving a taxi for so many years. I also considered it my ministry because of the intimacy of the vehicle people often chose me as their confessor. Thanks again for bringing back a lot of good memories. God will bless you for your actions on that night. - 4/7/2010   3:32:31 AM
  • 318
    I had to wipe the tears away before I could see well enough to type....
    Thank you for being such a good and decent man, and showing kindness to a stranger... The world needs more people like you.

    I have been an EMS educator for over 25 years and I remember teaching my students that they should always try to treat each patient as if they were a beloved relative... To this day, I still remember to try to treat my own patients as a revered family member - though some days it's difficult. It is nice that you are a person who actually practices what you preach.

    We touch others lives in so many ways, and rarely do we ever get to know the impact that we may have. The saying holds true, "to the whole world you may only be one person, but to one person you may be their entire world." Your simple act of kindness made a very positive difference in someone's life. - 4/6/2010   10:12:38 PM
  • 317
    What struck me about this encounter was that this elderly woman at the end of her life, certainly imparted as much as she recieved that night. - 4/6/2010   3:07:26 PM
  • 316
    Wow that was a beautiful story, thanks. - 4/6/2010   2:22:33 PM
  • 315
    What a beautiful story - thank you so much for sharing that with us - it made my day! I believe we are all confronted with such opportunities, often times on a daily basis - it depends on how we respond or how open we are to allow those opportunities to manifest themselves. As you mentioned - what if you had driven away? or what if you told he you couldn't (or did not have time) to drive her into the city - what a blessing would have been missed. I'm afraid I often miss-out on these types of opportunities (or blessings) because I often think of myself and my time rather than what I can do for others. Thank you once again. - 4/6/2010   12:33:50 PM
  • 314
    Wow, that brought a tear to my eye. You never know when what you do can really make a difference. Inspiring. - 4/6/2010   11:15:34 AM
    All we usually hear on the news are the bad things happening in this world. You know what? There are still good people like you who take a moment to care about another person. Thank you for sharing your story. - 4/6/2010   10:23:06 AM
    Be Not Forgetful to entertain strangers, for Thereby, Some have entertained Angels Unaware. Hebrews 13 - 4/6/2010   9:43:10 AM
  • JRAR629
    What a beautiful story. When I am working as a nurse I like to treat everyone like they are my family as well. Thank you Dr.Kent for being so good to the woman.
    God Bless.
    Antoinette - 4/6/2010   5:36:23 AM

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