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A Ride to the Airport

08/21/2021 10:42:21 AM

Aug21

Words offered at Shabbat Services on August 20

I have just returned from my summer sabbatical, a time in which I seek renewal and inspiration for the year ahead.

This year, I found some inspiration in a surprising place: on my ride to the airport.   A friendly, chatty Lyft driver drove us to JFK. As he drove, he told us a little bit about why he worked as a Lyft driver.

He had not done this work for long.  Our driver used to work at a friend’s restaurant. When COVID hit, his friend’s restaurant, like so many others, took a big hit. With so few customers, his friend had to cut the payroll.

Our driver said that when his friend told him what was going on with the restaurant, he decided to leave his job to help out. He did this because there were two other staff there who were single mothers and they needed to continue working.

Our driver explained that his wife had a full-time job so his family would be all right. He decided to drive for Lyft while he waited for business at his friend’s restaurant to pick up again.

His story moved me.  I asked him: “You really gave up your job to help your work colleagues?”

When he nodded yes, I said, “That is so, so kind.  Not many people would do the same. It’s a scary thing to give up a job to help other people.  Most of us are too selfish to do that.”

He replied: “Well, it was the right thing to do. That’s what my faith teaches me.”

Then our driver went on to tell us more. He said he lives about thirty miles north of Croton and used to go to a church up there. But he and his wife left that church because it didn’t seem to reflect what he thought his faith tradition should emphasize.

Now he and his wife drive well over an hour, all the way to the Bronx, to attend a church that does a lot of work in their impoverished neighborhood: feeding people, helping people access health care, and providing employment support.  

As I listened to him speak, I thought that his example is a good rebuttal to those who dismiss organized religion by saying “it’s the cause of so much evil in the world.”

Our driver was a man who lived by his faith – not only in terms of the church he drives so far to attend, but by his actions in his daily life.  Because he knew his co-workers really needed a regular paycheck, he decided that he could forgo his own to help them out.

I found his example to be inspiring, especially at this time of year.

The month of Elul is the season of teshuva, of return.

We are meant to return to the best of who we can be, worthy vessels of the Divine spark within us.

For each of us, the process of teshuva is a personal one, guided by self-reflection, and ultimately meant to be manifested in our actions towards others.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” instruction manual for teshuva.  In that spirit, I close with some questions to consider, questions inspired by my conversation with our driver.

What are the values we want to live by in this New Year?

What prevents us from fully living those values?

And finally, to paraphrase a quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi:

“How can we be the change we want to see in the world?” 

 

Wed, January 26 2022 24 Sh'vat 5782