Three taxis

Over the past week I have been blessed with some wonderful insights from three taxi drivers…

The first conversation was with a Chilean man in his 50s, a former mining engineer who moved to Sydney 15 years ago. He fretted that his new car smelled of vomit (I assured him I hadn’t noticed). He rarely worked weekends, but had decided to on the previous one. A drunk woman had thrown-up on the front seat, yet he wasn’t bitter about his new car being tainted. “It happens”, was all he said. What good grace! He told me how he sought engineering work in Western Australia’s mines when he first moved here, how employers considered him too old, and so he became a taxi driver. The man expressed his gratitude at the opportunities life in Australia has given him and his family. With his daughter now 17, he and his wife are hoping to adopt or sponsor a young child to provide someone else with a positive start in life.  I realised two things from my conversation with this kind man. One is that most Australians don’t seem to appreciate how very fortunate we are, by mere accident of birth, to be in this bountiful country.  The other is how humbling and inspiring the generosity of the human spirit can be.

My second encounter was with an Ethiopian man, who I learned had not seen his mother and family in Ethiopia for twenty years. Since seeking refuge in Australia, the Ethiopian government refused him entry back into his home country, and the Australian government would not grant his mother a travel visa (on the grounds that she was unlikely to leave) to visit him in Melbourne. He told me of his dream to save enough money to pay for an immigration lawyer to help bring his mother here. “Insha’Allah” he said, if it is God’s will. I deeply appreciated that important reminder – we can only do our best in life with the things that are within our control. So much is beyond that, and sometimes our only chance of happiness is to accept our circumstances. God willing. Let it be. I hope this calm man will be reunited with his mother one day.

My third conversation was with a young Indian man living in Melbourne whose fiancée, an Australian citizen from India, lives in Sydney. I asked whether it was an arranged marriage. “Ooh yes”, he replied. “Our families conducted all the background checks to ensure we are compatible. They made sure we share the same values, level of education, and that I have financial security.”  I was curious whether he thought this was a better system than marrying for romantic love, and whether he was happy with his family’s arrangements. I probed further. “Well,” he said, “before this I was with a girl who I was very much in love with for 8 years. It ended badly and now we are not even on speaking terms.”   He paused to reflect. “But this way – well at least I know we are suitable for one another. And besides, after living with someone for a few years, eventually you grow to love them.” I liked the apparent simplicity of, and faith in, this approach. Maybe when it comes to choosing a life partner, the Western obsession with romantic love isn’t everything it’s fired up to be.

I am grateful to these drivers for sharing their stories and enriching my life, and for reminding me how lucky I am.