Reflections from an Airport

Reflections from an Airport

It was 4 a.m. on a springlike day in February and I was in a taxi on my way to the airport, bound for one of my trips overseas. Following our exchange of “Good Mornings” and his confirmation that my destination was the airport, it was too dark to see the face of my driver as I sleepily wondered about his accent.

We rode in silence for several minutes before he spoke. “You have very heavy bags. Are you going to Africa?”

“No, but I have been there.”  

He straightened slightly and asked, “Have you been to Ethiopia?” When he learned that I had been to his home city, he spoke fondly about his visits there, then voiced his concerns about the challenges of living in the U.S., which he'd faced for nearly two decades.

One of the challenges was evident when I apologized for only having a $100 bill to pay my fare. He hesitated a moment and then reached under the floor mat to find the needed change. He commented, “It’s just like Africa here. You need to protect your money or you lose it in this job.”

I thanked him and headed into the airport. I prayed for him and was reminded of the many other wonderful people who have blessed me with taxi rides to and from the airport over the years.

There was the teacher from Eritrea who had come to study in a major city but whose stipend only covered the rent. With a family to feed, he quit school and moved to a good-paying manufacturing job in a smaller city. When the company downsized he had little seniority, lost his job, and ended up driving a cab.

He spoke with such pride of his daughter, now making top grades in medical school. “I could not afford to send her to a private school. You know what the public schools are like here, so I tutored her and her brothers every night.” His eyes moistened as he added,“They hated every minute of it, but now my daughter thanks me. I will do whatever job it takes to help my children have a chance in life. I am living my life through them.”

Then there was the graying father from Nigeria who was supporting his boys through college, as well as a “lost boy” from Sudan. Having come to work directly from a church service, he was dressed in a suit and tie. He told me of his gratitude for life, a job, and his church community.

I ponder all of this as I sit in an airport after missing a flight on my way to a country where many have an unrealistic image of the “American Dream.” I think not only of the taxi drivers I have met, but also the migrant workers who live and work so hard in my community and countless others across the country. It is their remittances to families in their home countries that are the largest sources of income there. A deep sense of dignity and pride prevents them from sharing the hard realities of their current lives with their families.

What is my role in sharing the truth as I arrive with my heavy bags, to be joined by special people from Foods Resource Bank growing project? These volunteers are coming not to do something they have decided is good for the people we will meet, but to work with them side by side.

May our listening ears and sweat equity support communities and individuals in their aspirations to feed their families with dignity over the long term! May both hosts and guests be wise and courageous in learning and sharing the truth in love!  

By Bev Abma, Executive Director of Overseas Programming

02/06/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment