About fifteen years ago, I found myself in the a limousine. I had a wealthy friend that wanted to take me to lunch. I’d never been in one before, except for a couple of times to be taken from a church to a gravesite, so I wasn’t sure of the protocol. Not being much of a limo riding kind of guy, I just watched what my friend did and followed along.
The ride was about twenty five minutes from my office so my friend and I got to talk a while in the back, look at the scenery, and have a glass of wine. It was a really nice ride.
During the first part of the ride, though, I started a conversation with the driver. His name was Matt, he’s from Portland, and he’s been driving with this particular limo service for three years but driving as a limousine driver for twenty.
At a pause in our conversation, my friend did an unusual thing. He reached next to the window, pushed a button and the divider between Matt and the back seat went up, ending my talk with Matt.
When we got to the restaurant, Matt the limousine driver held the door to let us out, and said that he would be waiting at the door upon our return. As I was walking toward the restaurant a thought crossed my mind, and I turned back to the car, I knocked on the driver’s window, and asked, “What would you like for lunch?”
The driver’s eyes widened and didn’t say anything at first. When he finally spoke, the only words that came from his mouth were “Excuse me?”
I said, again, “What would you like for lunch?”
He looked at me and, slowly, he said “A sandwich, I guess?”
So I asked him “what kind would you like?” He said “Turkey, please.” This went on for a few seconds. I asked him what kind of bread, if he wanted mayonnaise, did you want something to drink, that kind of thing.
Finally, I just came out and asked him, “Has anybody ever asked you if you wanted lunch before?” He said “No, no one has. And frankly, this gives me goose bumps.”
I ordered his sandwich first, ran it out to the limo, and then sat down with my friend for our lunch. My conversation with my friend was a little one sided. He was excited about his new venture, so we went a little long through lunch. He’s a good guy, and I was truly grateful for lunch and the limo ride, and told him as much.
But I felt that my conversation with Matt was a little short, and I didn’t want to ignore my friend, but I wanted to get a little more detail about Matt’s life. When we got back in the limo, I asked that the divider from the driver’s seat to the back be opened. Then I asked him about his job. “How many hours do you spend it a car? Does your back hurt from sitting so long? Where do you park the limo when it’s time to go home? What happens when you really have to go to the bathroom? Anybody throw up back here?”
He responded to all of my inquiries. Even my friend started asking about Matt’s life.
What I have found is that so many people around us, while doing their jobs, become a little bit invisible. Think about it. The bus drivers, garbage men, landscapers, housecleaners, cooks, gas station attendants…the list is immeasurable and vast. So many people work in a sense of anonymity throughout their lives.
They go very much unnoticed.
I make a point, therefore, to take the time to notice and discover the life of those that cross my path. And in this Christmas season, I want you all to do the same.
Here’s just three of discoveries along my path that I learned just this week: The man that landscapes my office has had a liver transplant and can’t drink caffeine. The woman that cleans my office has an amazing knowledge of indoor plant life. The young man at the gas station has completed one year of college but has to work because his Mom’s sick. Their names are Manny, Maria, and Leo. And they are dear, wonderful people and have made my life better by their presence.
This Christmas, ask the people you see every day how they feel doing their jobs. Get to know them a little better. Talk to them as if you were talking to somebody you know well. Give them time for some conversation. The circle of life filled with those you love will have grown by a few more.