As I scrunched myself into the back of his car, I said hello. He quietly said hi back and confirmed that I was, indeed, headed to the Chamblee MARTA station. It was my second time using Lyft, a service identical to Uber. I was using it because I had a $50 credit and was only going like two miles. This ride was going to cost me nothing – or so I thought.
“How’s your day going,” I asked. Normally my commute to and from school is silent because I drive myself, but the I-85 bridge collapse in Atlanta dramatically altered anything familiar about my routine. It was forcing an introvert to be an extrovert.
“Oh, it’s okay,” he responded despondently. Well, THIS is going to be a fun ride, I thought.
He asked me what I was studying at Mercer and I told him I was a theology student at the seminary. “I’ve spent the last three years learning about Jesus,” I said. But in all honesty, that’s a complete lie.
I’ve spent the last three years learning about what we think about God… and about how messed up the church is and how we need to fix it. But I spared him the details.
I asked him how long he had been driving for Lyft. He said for only a few months. I could tell by his accent that he probably wasn’t from Atlanta, but I’ve been wrong before. “My driver earlier was a Grady baby,” I said, “an Atlanta native. Did you grow up here?”
“No,” he replied, staring off in the distance. I noticed that he tensed up and gripped the steering wheel harder. I could tell it was an uncomfortable subject, but I pressed it. “Where are you from?”
Silence — an uncomfortable pause.
Then he said, quietly, under his breath: Afghanistan.
“Oh, awesome!” I exclaimed. “I’ve never met someone from Afghanistan.” His dull stare in the mirror turned into a smirk. I wanted to make sure he knew I was happy he was here. He loosened up. It made me wonder what kind of reactions he was used to receiving.
It’s been a rough three years for Abdul and his family. I asked him what the hardest part about the transition was, and it was like opening a can of worms:
“People in America only care about themselves. They are so selfish. They come into my car and they only think about themselves, only talk about themselves. I see so many people in need where I drive and I hear people talk about those people. They do nothing to help. Americans do not help one another.”
I just nodded my head in agreement. He continued:
“Where I come from, if we have a friend or neighbor in need, we do all that we can to help them. Can’t pay your rent? We will help. Need a place to stay? Stay with us. Need a meal to eat? Please, come over to join us for dinner. Americans do not do that. It’s only about what you can do for yourself.”
I apologized to him on behalf of our society’s ills. He said it was okay, he just didn’t understand. I told him I didn’t either, but that for most Americans, they don’t notice they even do that.
We have a lot of work to do.
Abdul and I talked about other things during our short drive. He said he missed all the parties him and his neighbors had. He missed being in a familiar place, an inviting place. But he knew that this is the safest place for his kids. They are doing well in school here and there are opportunities for them, so he is thankful. It’s much better than the alternative.
As we pulled up to the MARTA station, Abdul turned to me and said, “I want to thank you. I was very blessed and encouraged by this ride today. I hope you have a very blessed rest of your day!” And you know what? It was a great ride.
Love and hospitality don’t have to be extravagant and ornate. Sometimes love or hospitality is as simple as listening to one another.
“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares…”
(Hebrews 13:1-2, ESV)
And if you haven’t read Mike Paschall’s Uber stories, you should do that.