It’s interesting to have random conversations with strangers, especially taxi drivers. It helps relieve the boredom of routine travel, helps pass the time, gain insights on varied human thoughts and behaviors, as well as pick up some surprising reminders on faith and God’s wisdom.
So here’s what: it started as a simple (but often effective) observation on the weather winded up on how well-maintained the taxi was, to the driver’s family plans. His immediate goal: keep his occupation as a taxi driver until his daughter finishes college. Like me, he was unable to finish education, that’s why in his own way, he wishes his child would be spared from the same regret. He proudly talked about his daughter being involved with the upcoming Peñafrancia competitions (yes, I’m no longer surprised to discover fellow Bicolanos plying as taxi drivers here in Metro Manila), then sheepishly relates his own frustration: he also wanted to join competitions during his younger years, but his teachers ridiculed him, saying he didn’t have the skills/talent to succeed. And because of that, he just opted to excel in cara y cruz (a card/gambling game), billiards, and other “sports”.
He confides being a bit embarrassed and envious, because most of his former classmates are now successful in the corporate world: some are bankers, accountants, and other prestigious jobs. And here he was stuck as a taxi driver.
I never told him about myself. And he probably thought I was just another of those lucky employees who have a higher pay than he has. And I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was also an undergraduate (don’t wanna rub salt over open wounds). But what I able to say was this:
“Manong, hindi naman importante kung ano ang tinapos mo or kung ano ang naging trabaho mo ngayon… the mere fact na napalaki mo ng maayos ang anak mo at nagagawa mong suportahan para makapag-aral siya ng kolehiyo: achievement na ‘yun. Aanhin mo ang pagiging banker or mayaman, kung hindi mo naman naaalagaan ang anak mo?”
(Translation: “Sir, it’s not really important what degree you finished or what job you have right now… the mere fact that you were able to raise your daughter/child well and you’re doing your best to support her college education: that’s an achievement in itself. What’s the point in being a banker or rich, if you can’t even care for your child/daughter?”)
He was silent for a short while, but I think I saw a faint glimmer of pride behind his sunglasses-hidden eyes.
As he dropped me off, he thanked me profusely even before I handed him my fare.
While walking to our office building, I could not help but think: what are we truly living for? Am I just going through my days to keep earning for the temporary things I hoard? Does it really matter if I become the best in my field? Will it really be important if I make my personal achievements? Am I making every opportunity count — not to gain more treasures of monetary worth, but treasures that enriches and multiplies: like good memories, kindness, love, friendships, and all those fluffy abstract words?
I know as a Christian, I get too carried away— trying to show overflowing spirituality through being busy in the ministry, doing church stuff, and using my hard-earned skills to help communicate God’s Word more effectively. Yet I am reminded once again that most of the time, these don’t really matter at all. These are temporary, soon forgotten. What He wants is for us to disciple people: not forcing them on classrooms and boot camps to brainwash them into loyal religion-loving crowds, but towards genuine passion for God and for this lost world that He gave His life for. To pass on ideals and principles, lessons and experiences, wisdom and warnings. And encouraging those who come after us to press on, to reach more and to go beyond what we could do and have done.
To the parents out there, don’t give up. Keep going. It’s worth the sacrifice. Believe in God, and do what you can. The prize will always be there at the end of the race, so don’t live the regret of giving up when you know you could have won.
To the students, be grateful for your parents and relatives who support your tuition. It’s not easy earning that money — someday you will personally know what it takes. Be a little nicer, hug a little tighter. You are generously loved, so don’t be stingy with appreciation.
To the out-of-school youth, God has not forgotten you… and your parents have not, either. Whether you think they are neglecting you, or not doing their best to help you— it doesn’t really matter. Stand up on your own feet: this is your life. You will not be young forever, so take the steps to avoid that future where you can only look back and say: “I wish I did not waste my younger years…” You still have your chance, and it’s called NOW. Don’t hesitate to look for help. Don’t give up on praying to God for wisdom and guidance.
To the rest of us, single or married: Let’s be a little nicer to taxi drivers. Sure: some are criminals, a few are certified assholes, but most of them are just like us— with dreams, families, and a longing for a good life. Maybe we can’t tip as much (or at all), but we can always share kindness through words… words of sincere encouragement and not mere flattery, words that will nurture hope, faith and life for them to continue doing their best in such a hard yet honest trade. Because we all know how a rare treasure it is to find a taxi driver who drives with dignity and honor.
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