Lesson On Generosity: My Haitian Cab Driver
The story is the cure for self-absorption.
Posted Feb 09, 2010
The story is the cure for self-absorption. His face and tone of voice will stay with me all my life.
Just days after the unimaginable destruction wrought by the earthquake in Haiti, I was in New York City to speak with groups about my new book, How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas That Matter Most. Sunday evening, my talks concluded, I flagged down a cab to take me to meet a friend for dinner. As we set out, the driver asked me why I was in New York and I explained, quite briefly, about the book. For the duration of our all-too-short ride, his questions continued; at every stopping point he made eye contact via the rearview mirror or turned to face me when he was especially animated.
"Oh, yes!" he would remark, when considering this idea or that piece of music. "It doesn't take much to be happy, does it?" he stated more than asked. "Music and time with people you love." He was excited to learn that simple living was a focus in the book. "I love the idea of talking about ideas with others; we can learn and laugh, too!" The concept of empathy touched him; the way in which he talked about it made compassion seem as essential to the good life as oxygen. "Ah, joy, that one will be my favorite," he smiled as we neared our destination.
The taxi rolled to a stop. As I fumbled in pockets for cash, he turned to me and finished his lesson: "There is no charge. Your book will make me very happy." New York City and its environs are home to some 100,000 Haitians; I felt a part of their community at that moment. My charioteer made me a student for life. He doesn't need the book. He's got it all.