I like giving people rides. As I live and work in the same neighborhood with a high concentration of poverty, I find the opportunity arises quite often. It’s a simple act of kindness that gives me joy while meeting an immediate need in a place where walking is often the main means of transportation for many. In Miami with its tropical climate it’s usually either hot or rainy and sometimes both. So nearly once a week or more I find myself giving a ride to someone. It’s often a current or past teenager in our program, a parent of a child or teen in our program, a neighbor, or even sometimes strangers—although as a woman when it comes to other adults, I only give rides to other women just as wise precaution in my inner city neighborhood.
It’s fun to catch up with young people now in college who used to be in our youth program as we chat on our short rides. I enjoyed the opportunity to encourage a young man who dropped out of our program to come back in as I did yesterday giving him a ride on his way to a friend’s house. Over the years, I’ve given many rides to various teens seen frantically racing to school knowing that getting in before the bell rings can make or break their day’s success in school. I give rides to neighbors in our complex as they are taking off to walk and was pleasantly surprised recently that the teen I’d inappropriately labeled as a “sullen” because of our limited interactions was actually a delightful, hardworking gal on her way to her steady job at a department store grateful for a ride to avoid a sweaty arrival.
The first thing I ask of course is, “Where are you headed?” and learned that even if the response is a bit out of my way I try to never let on it’s an inconvenience. If they are going outside of the neighborhood, I don’t feel guilty not giving them a full ride and will drop them off at the closest bus stop or train station knowing that a few blocks can help them catch an earlier bus or train and still lead to some great times of sharing.
I know I’ve taken many people off guard as I roll down the window and ask, “Can I give you a ride?” Strangers sometimes say “No” I think just out shock and surprise that some crazy lady is offering them a ride. I also gladly give second chances to folks who say no the first time and admit if I’m in a hurry I give a wave instead as I rush on my way.
I’ve found this practice of offering rides, is important to my spiritual walk and keeps me grounded in the present as I drive from work to home and errands in between. If I’m on the lookout for faces I know or people escaping the rain, I become more aware of the needs around me in a community that often seems overwhelming with needs. I’m reminded to pray for my community and as I hear updates on short drives I am able to pray more specifically. Giving rides might be meeting just a simple, maybe even unimportant need in the scheme of things, but as we work towards justice in overcoming long-term needs for our community of escaping poverty and increasing educational opportunities I find that these brief interactions bring me needed joy.
This past school year with the entrance of my kids in a new school just a few blocks outside my neighborhood, I found myself taking a new route. I’d seen a certain mom walk down 1st Avenue a few times before, but one day it was rainy so I pulled over. To my surprise she answered, “Sure” and climbed in. She was only going a few blocks to pick up her son from a different school so our conversation that day was short. From that quick ride we developed a friendship as I regularly gave her rides over the course of several months and sometimes her son too as they traveled home from school pick up. Our kids got to know one another in the back seat and I encouraged her in her schooling as we discussed her classes and her positive outlook always encouraged me as well. We got to know where we each lived and some evenings she would shout out a “Hello” walking by as I sat on the porch. Now that the school year has ended I haven’t seen her since May, but rest assured when the school year starts again I’ll be on the lookout for her and any others asking, “Can I give you a ride?”