“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” – Philip Pullman.
On Friday afternoon I caught an Uber to the glass repair company. Thanks to heavy rains, and what must have been an ostrich egg or something equally as formidable falling from a tree, my windscreen had smashed.
I was grumpy, lamenting the fact that this month alone I had also had to replace my washing machine, my internet router, and now the bloody windscreen. I was also reflecting on the Universe’s cruel sense of humour. On Thursday afternoon at 15:30 pm I decided that I wanted to be a more positive person, and by 17:05 pm, I returned to a car with a horribly cracked windscreen. Looking back, this was the perfect test for my newfound intention. If I really was to embrace a more positive focus, I would take this in my stride. Sadly, I am merely a human (okaaaaaay, with some badass rap skills and an impressive, yet somewhat unattractive Cat in the Hat face party-trick), so my initial reaction was far from zen. It consisted of a series of profanities, a frustrated scream within the confines of my car, and a woe is me performance that might be worthy of an Oscar. I then composed myself a little and decided to be grateful for the fact that it had not cracked mid-drive, and that it had not totally smashed through.
I think this positivity thing takes some brain rewiring and thus, a little bit of time to implement properly. So for now, I shall call it a work in progress and say that I am 25 percent zen-chick, and 70 percent a frenetic-Frida. (Sorry Frida).
Anyway, along came Friday and I had managed to get things fixed. I waited outside my flat and an Uber driver named Mohammed came to fetch me. Incidentally, he too had a slightly cracked windscreen, but it happened when he was driving in Stellenbosch and thus, he is really lucky to be okay. From the second I got in the car, our conversation flowed. He was an older man, perhaps a little older than my own Dad, and he had a wisdom and a warmth that was refreshing. Within about five minutes he started sharing some stories from his life with me, and eventually, he told me about how seven years ago he had lost both his wife, and his father in the space of seven months. He reflected on how tough this was, and how he and his then fourteen year old daughter had tried to resuscitate his wife. At this point, I had tears in my eyes and told him how sorry I was. He smiled warmly and told me that he was grateful for all the years that they had been given, and that these experiences have made him grateful for everything that he has in his life.
“People”, he shared “are often so focused on fighting about the little things, that they forget each other. I see it with my friends all the time. If I could give them one piece of advice it would be to never go to bed angry. Yes, you can fight and have the biggest fight in the world and that’s okay, but before you go to sleep at night give that person you love a hug and a kiss and say that you are sorry. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is because tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us.”
Mohammed’s wisdom hit me and I reflected on my own life and my own stubbornness. Sometimes the deepest tragedies can give us newfound clarity on life and highlight what it is that is truly important. It’s heartbreaking that sometimes we only understand these lessons after incomprehensible pain, but maybe it also gives that pain some meaning. Life is not fair and no one is guaranteed anything. All we have is the present moment that we are in and we are always given a choice. We can fight, we can let our ego’s reign supreme, and we can allow stubbornness to erode the precious moments, or we can choose love.
As someone who admittedly struggles to let stuff go (like a bull terrier with a juicy bone), I have done this all too often. But now Mohammed’s words keep replaying in my head. Why is it that we so often “forget each other”, when we have the opportunity to love each other, and to remember everything that makes the person next to us so magical?
As we continued our journey, I kept glancing at the ETA on his phone screen. I didn’t want the drive, or our conversation to end. I wanted to be friends with this dude, but how do you tell your sixty-something Uber driver that you want to grab a coffee, without sounding like a total creepazoid? We eventually pulled up at the glass repair centre and continued our conversation for a few more minutes before saying our goodbyes.
It was only a twenty-minute drive, but I think Mohammed and his wisdom changed my life. I am lucky to have met him and grateful for his immense openness. It’s something quite beautiful to share your stories with people around you and I think everyone in the world has something valuable to share. We all have stories within us, and you never know how much your story can help another human being and even change their life. I felt his words yesterday at my Dad’s 60th birthday celebration. As I looked around the room at my Grandmother who is 89, my Dad, my little sister, and loving family and friends I was overcome with gratitude for having these people in my life. I want to hold onto every single moment with them, and never forget the people I love in moments of anger, or annoyance. “Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us”, but if we are lucky enough to have today, then we are still able to choose love.
Your stories are your magic, and they are a gift to the world. Getting my windscreen cracked, meeting Mohammed and hearing his story, was the best thing that’s happened to me in weeks. There are stories to be found in the most unlikely of places, if only we choose to listen to them.