Yesterday was a long day. I had to fly to Cleveland and back for an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic. My day began at 2am and didn't end until late in the evening. I confess I was tired. Tired enough that this posting is many hours later than I usually like it to be. But, I had a wonderful experience that I'd like to share.
When it was finally time to head to the airport after many hours at the Clinic, I asked at the main desk to have a cab called for me. The kind woman told me to wait just a moment, she'd make the arrangements. Within ten minutes a shiny black town car pulled up. A doorman motioned that this car was for me. I expected a Yellow Cab, not a town car.
"Please," he said. "This car is for you and will take you to the airport."
I hesitated for a moment, then shrugged. It all looked respectable.
Then my adventure began. Mustafa introduced himself and welcomed me into his car. I was charmed the entire twenty minutes it took to get to the airport. I don't have a habit of chit-chatting (though my family would disagree) but this man changed my day. I had been traveling for hours, working through a variety of systems, managing the mundane, and hearing news of lab tests and getting set for a few hours of travel back home. Mustafa changed all of that.
He was cheerful, full of stories, and quick to notice I had had a long day. Out came the large note books full of letters, each in a plastic sleeve. Then there were the photographs, all carefully slipped into plastic. I wasn't sure how we were going to make it to the airport with him turned sideways in his seat, making sure I read each letter from a congressman, a senator, a patient on oxygen, the wife of someone who had just died. The letters went on and on.
Then the photographs. A smiling Mustafa stood with an arm around person after person. I lost count of the pictures into the third album.
Mustafa came to the United States eight years ago. He speaks six languages. When he arrived, he had no knowledge of English. Today his English is perfect. His son speaks only four languages, but Mustafa is working on improving that.
He earned his first dollars cleaning toilets and wiping out public bathrooms at the Cleveland Clinic. Mustafa made a decision that this "wonderful country" had given him so much he needed to decide how to give back. Those are his words not mine.
He decided that the way he could contribute was to start a car service. He envisioned one that was elegant, would give people a sense of dignity, would carefully avoid any reference to illness or pain, and "No Smoking." He now has eight employees and many cars. He repeated that his goal is to be there for his clients, whatever that means. I literally began tearing up, long day, lots of information to process, and a truly dear man capping it off. I looked out the window pretending that the tears weren't forming, only to find a Kleenex passed from the front of the car in my direction.
I had no idea that Mustafa would touch me as he has. He opened my car door and offered his hand to help me out. He gave me a sweet hug and told me "God's Speed."
We all have goals. We all have dreams. We all have paths we choose to take as we reach. Mustafa will stay with me. He proudly cleaned the bathrooms and then decided how he could make a difference. A difference I won't forget.