I’m just back from a quick weekend trip to the beach. Our party of six did a five-hour ride on Amtrak to Rocky Mount, NC, then rented a car for a three-hour drive over to the Outer Banks.
A beach trip like that might seem a bit of overkill, considering all six of us live in Charleston, where a trip to the beach is measured in minutes instead of hours and doesn’t involve anyone yelling “All Aboard!” (unless you want to, of course).
But it’s the journey, not the destination, as they say.
It’s also the insights that you pick up along the way. Insights you’d never pick up at home. Like the one that hit me after I returned the rental car.
After a few days in Nags Head – by which I mean dangerously strong surf, biting winds, and fabulous food that made up for the less-than-welcome beach – we did the return trip: three hours by car, then I dropped everyone at the Amtrak station and went to Enterprise to drop off the rental and call for a taxi to take me back to the station. (Yes, Enterprise does provide free shuttle, but not during after-hours, which it was at this point on Sunday.)
The taxi service said they’d send someone but weren’t sure when the person would get there. Hopefully soon, might be forty-five minutes, could be an hour or more. I started thinking up contingencies in case I didn’t make the train. Because I’m a professional worrier (and pretty good at it), this was a serious concern, and I launched into full-on fretting mode.
But then – surprise! – the taxi pulled up about two minutes after I parked. I was so grateful that I jumped in and said to the woman, “Thank you so much!”
She didn’t say anything. Nor did she talk on the way to the train station. I could see her eyes in the mirror. Tired, sad, a little apathetic.
When we pulled up to the station, I said, “You were such a blessing to me today.”
The woman shrugged and mumbled something like, “Uh.”
The fee was 9.65. I gave her a twenty.
She groaned and said, “I only have ones to give you.”
I said, “No, keep the change.”
She just looked at me dumbfounded, so I said it again: “I mean it. You were a blessing to me today, and I appreciate how quickly you got there. Thank you.”
I got out of the car and went into the station. A quick glance back. She was still staring at me, confused.
That was an interesting encounter. I thought about it on the way home. I fell asleep thinking about it. And I woke up this morning with an insight.
You see, I don’t think it was my double-paying the taxi fee that puzzled her.
Maybe she didn’t hear “thank you” or “I appreciate you” very much and wasn’t sure how to respond. (I’m guessing that when it came to paying the fee, riders usually only said something about the high price, if they said anything at all.)
Maybe she wasn’t used to being called a blessing.
And sure, maybe I’m over-thinking the encounter (I’m as skilled at over-thinking as I am at worrying), but when you get an insight, you might as well entertain it for a while.
I don’t think it was an accident that I ended up in her taxi. I think it was part of the journey-not-destination that she and I are both on, where we gain valuable insights in the most unlikely of places and use them to grow: For me, it’s seeing blessings instead of worrying and fretting; for her, maybe it’s believing that blessings are real and, in fact, sometimes come in the form of her.
I can’t help hoping and praying that the woman also thought about our conversation. I wouldn’t even mind if she was irritated or rolled her eyes when she thought about it.
I just hope she heard the truth: “You were a blessing to me today.”
I hope it gets stuck in her head and echoes every day.
I hope it takes root and grows.
I hope it becomes part of her self-talk.