As a gift to me for my sixteenth birthday, my parents bequeathed me their old 1968 Ford Fairlane 500. My friends immediately dubbed it “The Yellow Banana”. It was built like a tank, four doors, of course and completely uncool, but it got me where I needed to go. One summer afternoon, I was driving The Banana down the country roads of Davidson County to my part-time job in downtown (or as it is more recently known “uptown”) Lexington. There on a long and desolate stretch of two lane road , my car began to choke and spasm. It occurred to me that I had failed to notice the gas gauge registering near empty. As we came to an undignified stop, I pondered my predicament. I looked around me Although I was in central North Carolina, the landscape which rolled before me seemed more like the endless sea of cornfields and pasturelands that you might see in Nebraska or Kansas. Undeterred, I set out in the direction from where I had come.
I had not walked far, when from out of nowhere came a bright yellow taxi.
For those of us who live in the city, there is absolutely nothing unusual about a passing taxi cab, but in 1978 rural North Carolina, at the edge of a cornfield in the middle of nowhere, it was a strange sight, indeed. In fact, having never traveled to a big city, I had never even ridden in a taxi before. Somehow, perhaps from watching too many television sitcoms, I knew what to do. I held up my arm to catch the driver’s attention…
As an adult, I now realize that if you are a cute little 16 year old girl, standing in the middle of nowhere, all dressed up in a breezy summer skirt and Candies, the “hailing” part was completely unnecessary.
The taxi came to an abrupt stop. The driver was dark-skinned, not of any particular nationality I could recognize. I quickly explained my predicament and he was kind enough to drive me back the few miles to a service station where I called my daddy to bring the gas can. I thanked the cab driver profusely, but he wouldn’t take any money.
Despite the vast numbers of memories I have forgotten over the course of my lifetime- people and years of my life on end- I can recall that day like it was yesterday. The feel of my skirt blowing along my bare legs; the July heat rising up off the pavement; the endless sea of corn blurring a smudge into the horizon; the black and dusty interior of the taxi cab; the dark hairs rising stubby and crisscrossed on the back of the neck of the mysterious driver. This memory reminds me of the many times in my life that have I been the recipient of so much undeserved grace, that I feel almost ashamed.
And yet for reasons we cannot understand, there are other times in our lives when we go through long periods of equally undeserved hardship and struggle. Every day, I hear about good people who suffer multiple and simultaneous difficulties. Perhaps they have lost their job, are facing bankruptcy or the loss of their home or their family or are coping with illness or addiction. It seems so unfair. It IS unfair.
The Old Testament story of Job tells of an honorable, exemplary man who faced insurmountable and catastrophic loss. Job lost almost everything: his children, his home, his wealth and his health. It is a powerful story, yet one I have never particularly liked. It makes me feel so small and unable to influence even the smallest aspect of my own destiny.How often it is that our lives feel out of control. We are like the specks of dust being blown around at the mercy of a great wind.
Yet, I also believe, mainly because I have witnessed this in my own life, that there are times in our lives when we are the beneficiaries of a comprehensively undeserved grace. Times when for reasons unknown to us, a Higher Power goes before us, spreading the cornfields like He parted the Sea, and calls forth a yellow taxi, just when we need a ride.