A client of mine drives a taxi part-time. Although it is a second job and is requiring some long hours, the job is allowing him to see many sides of life in his city, and he likes this. He recently told me that sometimes he shuttles children from homeless shelters to school if school bus transportation is not available. Apparently there is a law that requires school districts to transport homeless children to the school in which they started the school-year, even if the shelter they are now living in is in another part of town. This law is designed to keep children as stable as possible by allowing them to attend the same school all year, even if they change shelters and addresses. It’s a good thing for the children, and a very expensive undertaking for the school districts.
So he picks up a couple of sisters from a shelter and has to transport them about twenty miles up the road. The sisters get in the cab at 7:00 am and they are already fussing and fighting, picking and just irritating the heck out of each other. He is wondering if there is anything he can do to help. He could fuss at them, he thinks, and then realizes that is probably all anybody is doing to them right now. He could offer advise, and again he realizes that probably won’t do any good. Besides, he’s never lived in a shelter. How would he know what advice to give? He thinks about doing nothing, but that doesn’t seem right either. He thinks about asking about their lives, but doesn’t want to put them on the spot or make them uncomfortable.
So he does the unexpected. He starts singing to them. He sings Amazing Grace. He sings in his lovely baritone voice, and the girls quiet down and listen. They are totally silent, and he responds by singing another verse, and then another. When he is finished, the younger of the two sisters says quietly, “Well, at least you tried.”
Amen, Sister. I don’t know what that little girl meant by that, but this is what I think. He did try. He tried to be gracious. He tried to be merciful. He tried to be kind and helpful and to show another way. He tried not to judge, he tried not to be a know-it-all, he tried to offer some light and happiness into a couple of lives that must be difficult right now. He tried to remember that these children did not ask to be homeless. He tried and he did the unexpected.
I kept thinking of how Jesus would tell some wild and crazy parable when people were expecting the worst. When they were expecting judgment, he often offered mercy. When they were expecting rigidity, he offered grace. When they were expecting anger, he offered pardon and peace.
We all have opportunities everyday to try. We can try to shed light to this often bleak world. We can try to be kind, courteous, ethical, honest, and thoughtful. We can try to be fully present when we are with someone. We can try to respond creatively to problems we do not understand. I’d accept it as a high compliment if some child said to me, “Well, at least you tried.”