The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico seems to be one more catastrophe that leaves all of us "small people" feeling powerless -- and drowning in the enormity of such a huge crisis.
In the wake of such tragedy sometimes we need to cling -- like a life raft -- to small acts of kindness, small moments of hope that people are fundamentally good and that everything will "somehow work out."
I had one of these moments in a cab in Washington, D.C. this past week. Actually, I have had many of these moments in other cities too.
Sliding into the back seat of an air conditioned cab on a hot Monday afternoon, I sighed with relief and exchanged greetings with the driver. I detected an accent and immediately asked where he was from because I love to do that. "Guess!" he said, smiling. This time I got it right. He told me he was born in Nigeria. I am always happy when a cabbie's "mother town" is a place that has an SOS Children's Village. Since we raise children in 500 Villages in 132 countries, the odds are good. I have his interest, and I can continue!
I began to tell him about how SOS provides a safe haven for orphaned and abandoned children in many cities of Nigeria. He then stopped me quickly: "I know you have a Village in Lagos! My father actually worked there for many years. It's a wonderful place." I smiled with satisfaction and told him that he indeed knew SOS Nigeria much better than I did. He laughed. At the end of the ride, my Nigerian cab driver handed me a $10 bill. "Here, please take this for your cause. You do great work." NO, I protested, I cannot take your money! "Yes, you must," he said. "it's for the children."
Then there was the recent time when a Haitian cabbie from Port-au-Prince almost started crying when I told him about our SOS Children's Village in Santo, outside Haiti's capital, and how we are caring for 500 children who have lost their families in the earthquake. My Haitian driver also had lost relatives in the rubble. And he said it was especially hard when he had no family here in America. Holding back tears he insisted I not pay for the cab. I didn't protest this time. I just gave him my card, and urged him to check our website for more updates on our work in Haiti -- and I thanked him for his thoughts and prayers.
Finally, I recall my cab driver from Tema, Ghana, who was so astonished that I knew his home town that he pulled over so he could tell me about the wonderful SOS school at Tema that his very best friend attended. "SOS saved his life," he said. "His parents were both dead and no relatives would take him in. He had been abused. But SOS discovered how smart and clever he was. The SOS Village gave him a family and a future."
Sure enough, when I went to pay for the ride, he wouldn't hear of it. "Miss, please, you cannot pay," he insisted. "SOS is doing everything I cannot do, sitting in this taxi. Please!" He pulled away nodding and smiling and so was I.
My intention in connecting with cabbies from around the world is not to fundraise. It is more selfish than that. It's my attempt to reaffirm that we are all connected in some way by caring -- that there is a common thread that binds us -- all of us "small people" caring about "small people " everywhere. Small moments that have to make up for those big earthquakes and big oil spills.
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