Lessons from a Lyft Driver
Last week my work took me to Toronto, Detroit and Seattle. And as is often the case, I had the occasion to hop in the car of several Lyft or Uber drivers who took me from one place to another. My routine is to exchange a few greetings, make sure they know where I need to go, and then hop on the phone or pull out my laptop and get some work done.
I’ve long since accepted that I don’t give off “let’s have a deep conversation” vibes. As an introvert, that typically serves me well. I get my best work done sitting on an airplane, in a hotel lounge, or in the backseat of a stranger’s car—surrounded by people, but alone. I hate being in crowds where I’m expected to be social or carry the conversation—but I thrive on one-on-one opportunities to hear someone’s story. I’m captivated by how different and complex the human experience is, and what it is that brought a person to this moment in time.
It was 8:30pm when “Sarah” picked me up on the curb outside a restaurant in Bellevue, Washington. According to our receipt, we had a 16-minute ride before she dropped me at my hotel in downtown Seattle. But in that short ride, I learned about a young woman who has seen a lot in her 22-year life.
Sarah is from Eritrea. “Where?” I asked. I had never heard of this country that sits on the Red Sea nestled between Ethiopia and Sudan – across the water from Saudi Arabia. Sarah told me a bit about her African country – very wealthy, but under a harsh dictator her entire life.
When Sarah was 12-years old (just ten years ago), she escaped by herself across the border into neighboring Ethiopia. This is common, she tells me. Her 13-year old brother recently crossed. For the next five years, without mom or day, or any other family, she lived in refugee camps throughout Ethiopia and was moved around by those who provided care for her. Then at 17-years old, she was sponsored by a cousin to come to the U.S.
Fast forward to today: Sarah attends nursing school by day, and drives Lyft at night. She is two years away from receiving her R.N. degree. She hasn’t seen her family in 10 years and will not be allowed to return to her home country since she escaped illegally. Upon graduation, she would like to go back to Ethiopia and use her nursing skills to help care in the refugee clinics where she was helped. She might even attempt sneaking back into Eritrea to help those in need.
I thought about Sarah quite a bit after that 16-minute drive. I thought about the time in my past when I would have felt like it was my responsibility to “share the gospel.” I’ve grown to believe that it’s my job to love. To accept. To listen. To encourage. To tell Sarah she’s doing good work. To encourage her to keep moving forward. To let her know her parents would be proud of her.
Everyone has a story. I’m pretty glad I kept my laptop put away and leaned in to hear Sarah’s story. I think I’ll do that more often.