One Tiny Act of Kindness

Sometimes one is able assist another person immeasurably even though that act of kindness was insignificant in itself. It might not have saved a life or been as dramatic as the rescue of an animal in distress, but that act of kindness could mean more than life itself to that recipient.

In this case it was a New York Taxi Driver who as an occupation is not normally known for their patience and tolerance. This incident probably meant more to this doddering old woman than anything else in the past ten years of her life.

This story reminds me of a friend whose great aunt of 90 years of age still lives in Zimbabwe and has to survive on R30 per month. In her heyday she was a partner in a well-known audit firm but due to rampart inflation and economic mismanagement, her pension is valueless and her lifesavings written off.

NY Taxi Driver#1

With no friends or family in Zimbabwe and nothing but a bleak existence ahead of her, her plaintiff comment on life is, “I have lived too long now.”

What a maudlin thought?

How sad?

Instead of spending one’s final days on earth cocooned in happiness, it is the bleak prospect of mere survival.

Taxi driver#2

Perhaps this New York biddy faced a similar prospect.

But who knows.

I will let the cab driver tell the story in his own inimitable way:

 I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes, I honked again. Since this was going to be the last ride of my shift, I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the cab in park and walked up to the door and knocked.

 “Just a minute,” answered a frail elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

 After a long pause the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood in front of me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned to it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

Taxi driver#7 

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if nobody had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knicknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly to the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. “It’s nothing,” I told her, “I just try to treat my passengers the way that I would like my mother to be treated.”

Taxi driver#3 

“Oh, you’re such as good boy,” she said. When we got into the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, “Could you please drive through downtown?”

 “It’s not the shortest way,” I quickly replied.

 “Oh I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I am on my way to a hospice.”

 I looked in the rear-view mirror. He eyes were glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued in a soft voice. “The doctor says that I don’t have very long.”

 New York City at Night

I quickly reached over and shut off the meter.

 “What route would you like me to take,” I asked.

 For the next two hours we drove through the city. She showed me the building where we had once worked as an elevator operator.

 We drove through the neighbourhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had once gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow down in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness saying nothing.

Taxi driver#5 

As the first hint of the sun creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired now. Let’s go.”

 We drove in silence to the address that she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home with a drive way that passed under a portico.

 Two Orderlies came up to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

 Taxi driver#6

“How much do I owe you,” she asked, reaching into her purse.

 “Nothing,” I said.

 “You have to make a living,” she answered.

 “There are other passengers,” I responded.

 Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

 “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

 I squeezed her hand and then walked into the dim morning light.

 Behind me a door shut. It was the closing of a life.

 Closing doors

I didn’t pick up any more passengers on that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten a rotten driver or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run or had honked once and then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

 We are conditioned to think that life revolves around great moments.

 But great moments often catch us unaware beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.


Kent Nerburn, the Taxi Driver

Kent Nerburn, the Taxi Driver


This random act of kindness would be cherished forever by both the recipient and the benefactor. I could imagine this elderly woman fading away content in knowing that she had viewed for one last time all those places that she had frequented perhaps 70 years previously.

One tiny act of kindness was worth more than a million dollars to her.

Are you making a difference in other people’s lives this Festive Season?


Read the full story at:

Related blogs:

The Wonder of it All

What a Wonderful World

Restoring our Faith in Humanity in 2015


The Purpose and Meaning of Life

Attitude Maketh a Man

Today’s Life To-Do List

One Tiny Act of Kindness

Christmas: Restoring Faith in Humankind

The Tapestry of Life


Isn’t Life Strange?

Vicissitudes of Time





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