A Cab Driver Named Adolf (#776)

(A quick note: Michael is on sabbatical this month so we’re sharing excerpts from his books. Today’s tip is taken from chapter six of You Can Have What You Want. Follow the links at the end to read the whole chapter online!)

A few years ago, I was in Chicago as part of a comedy ‘sketchfest’ – comedy troupes from around the country coming together to make people laugh, steal each other’s jokes and generally have a good time playing. Our first show was what could politely be called ‘less than fully triumphant’, and rather than stick around and face it like a man I went skulking off in a cab to visit a friend.

To my delight, within moments of entering the cab it began to snow – and I love the snow. Growing up in New England, snow meant sleds, skiing, snowmen and on a good day, school being cancelled. But when I shared my delight with the cab driver, he glared at me with a look of contempt normally reserved for people you’ve known for years. After a few moments of silence, no doubt spent considering the relative merits of throwing me out of his cab to enjoy the snow I was so fond of ‘up close and personal’, he began to talk.

His name was Adolf and he came from Ghana. He had come to America in 1991 to make his fortune and take care of his family. Thirteen years later, he was driving a borrowed cab seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year. The money sent home each month enabled his family to live well. His mother owned her own home; his brother and sister were able to finish the equivalent of high school. But Adolf had not been back.

A few months earlier, his mother asked him to come home to visit for Christmas. He told her he would love to, but it would mean he wouldn’t be able to send money for a few months. She never brought it up again. Adolf wanted me to know he was a Christian and his great shame that he was living with was that he had spent Christmas Day out in the snow hustling fares instead of in church giving thanks.

Yet through it all, he had a dignity and pride about him that dared me to feel sorry for him. When I asked him if he was doing what he really wanted to do with his life, I thought he was going to kill me.

He got that look in his eyes people get when they can see their big dream a million miles away in their mind’s eye then wipe the slate clean before anyone notices the slight smile forming on the corner of his mouth.

‘I don’t know what I really want to do’ he said firmly.

‘I don’t believe you’ I replied, equally firmly.

By now the snow was beginning to stick to the sidewalks and Adolf pulled the car over to the side of the road. Any thought of visiting my friend was long forgotten. I was in the back of that cab for a reason. Heck, I had pretty much proved I wasn’t in Chicago to make people laugh.

‘Everyone has access to the voice of inspiration’ I continued, ‘what the Quakers call “the still, small voice within”. When you listen to that inner voice, it lays out a path like a blueprint that contains everything you need to know to create a life so wonderful to you it will feel like you were born to live it. But sometimes following that voice is so scary that we won’t admit we’ve got one – not even to ourselves’.

He was watching me in his rear-view mirror intensely.

‘It usually starts with an inkling – a sense that there must be something more to life than getting up and doing the same things day after day after day’.

He nodded his head in agreement, so I carried on.

‘Then, if you begin to pay attention, you will notice that there are things you think about which are different from most of the people around you. Things you want that are unique to you; consistent daydreams and impulses that keep coming up, no matter how many times you push them away’.

Adolf looked at me a bit suspiciously, as though I had somehow gained entry not only into his head, but into a part of his mind he had all, but locked away. He did, however, continue to listen.

‘The fact is, at some level you already know what you want to do. The more honest you are willing to be with yourself about it, the more your own unique blueprint for a wonderful life will begin to emerge. The voice of inspiration begins to speak louder and more clearly and your life will get easier and easier. But you’ve got to at least be open to it. As someone once said “There are none so blind as those who will not see”’.

We both went quiet for a few moments, then Adolf spoke.

‘I do know what I want to do’ he began. ‘My dream is to learn to build houses the way Americans build them. The houses in Ghana are not strong. I want to go back to Ghana and build houses for my village. Then I would know that I had made a difference. And everything else that I have had to endure would be OK. It would have all been worthwhile’.

There were tears in both our eyes – something I’ve noticed is quite common when someone first acknowledges something they’ve been keeping hidden from everyone, including themselves. And then he sat a little taller in his seat and we both knew it was time to move on.

Read the rest of the chapter online here.

Order You Can Have What You Want from Amazon here!

With love,

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