Taxi Driver Wisdom

Written by

January 21, 2018

It is a beautiful weekend in the Washington area and all around the country. A group of friends from our Lady Docs circle and I decided months ago that we would spend a weekend together in a little town in the horse country of Virginia as our first gathering for 2018. Similar to January 20th of last year, this weekend is not very peaceful around the country. The government was shut down last night with the two political parties not seeing eye to eye on many issues.

This morning, at our hotel, we did some group exercises together including a relaxing one hour of hot yoga. The little prayer at the end of the yoga session was especially peaceful, as it reminded us to focus on the moment and not let our anxiety take over our life. Find something positive around us, and give something positive to those around us. A simple act of kindness, whether it’s a smile or a kind verbal exchange, might help ease someone’s internal struggle, even only for a brief moment.

Years ago, while our son, as a toddler, was in treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, my husband and I had many taxi rides to and from the airport to the hospital or the Ronald McDonald House for sick children. I do not recall a single taxi driver I met who was not an immigrant. They came from all over the world and they were a group of remarkable people. All of them were poised, intellectual and kind. One of them had been a poet and professor in his country. He and I discussed French poetry and we discovered we had the same favorite French poets. Who would have thought I would have an incredible discussion about Francois Villon and Paul Verlaine’s poetry with a taxi driver? Almost all of the drivers were from third world countries. Like my parents, they had fled their countries for multiple reasons other than economic. We talked about the wars in their countries, about the hard life they led upon entering the U.S. and how they survived all hardships to build up a wonderful life for the next generation of children and grandchildren. My husband and I agreed we learned so many life lessons from this group of remarkable Americans who were not Americans by birth.

If we deny we are living in a time of chaos and conflict, we need to pull our heads out of the sand or drink more coffee to keep ourselves more alert and observant. As our yoga instructor reminded us this morning, we can deal with chaos in a healthy way, by focusing on hope and positive thinking. We need to recognize the little pearls in life, the wisdom in all those around us especially individuals who came from countries some of us might look down on as the third world. They might be poor and struggling, but their survival and endurance show the amazing grace and strength many of us lack in the “First” world.

So here are a few pearls of wisdom from the taxi drivers in New York City, from a book I bought at the time, because of how impressed I was with the drivers I met. It’s a little book of quotes taken from conversations with New York City cab drivers by Risa Mickenberg, called “Taxi Driver Wisdom.” Like me, Mickenberg had many conversations with these international taxi drivers and declared that they are the world’s most accessible source of truth and wisdom.

On Holy Wars:

  • There are three main religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and all have the story of Joseph. We share the same stories, but we fight each other.

On the collective unconscious:

  • We all connect, like a net we cannot see. 

On Checking yourself out in rearview mirrors:

  • if your driver has nothing interesting to say to you, maybe it’s because you have nothing interesting to say to him.

On the Meaning of Life:

  • You must have things that you care about. Otherwise you are empty.

IS God a socialist?

  • You’re not any safer in first class

On finding your path:

  • There’s no need to stand behind anyone when there’s so much room to walk.

 Light at the end of the tunnel:

  • Death is an end and a beginning. 

On the darkest hours:

  • Mostly I just hate to sleep alone.

May we all focus on inner peace in a time of chaos.