This is not a story I’m overly proud of. I was young and naïve – a Tassie girl in the big smoke of Sydney.
I had moved there to study as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, full of courage and optimism, determined to turn my passion for dancing into a career. Yes people, the starry-eyed, teenaged version of myself wanted to eke out a living turning pirouettes on a stage somewhere. Goodness knows the stress I put my parents through when I told them I wanted to move to Sydney to study a bachelor of dance before I’d even reached the legal age to have a beer at the local (although, that may have been more of a comfort…).
My sister came to visit a few months in – she would have been all of 14-years. I met her at the airport and in the taxi rank we got talking to the middle-aged man she sat beside on the plane. He said he lived near my lodgings in Leichhardt, so we shared a cab to split the hefty charge.
Alarm bells yet?
During the trip and continued conversation, the cab driver was silent but I couldn’t help noticing his furtive glances through the rear view mirror. As we pulled up to the man’s house, which wasn’t quite so close to my locale as expected, he offered to give us a lift to our place and spare us the cab charge.
To a naïve 17-year-old with limited funds, it sounded like a sweet offer.
Alarm bells now?
As we went to join that man on the footpath outside his house, I felt uneasy. And the taxi driver finally broke his silence: “Don’t go with him,” he said, “I’ll drive you the rest of the way for free.”
Finally, I heard those alarm bells with crystal clarity and we climbed back into the car. I gripped my sister’s hand the rest of the trip (during which time the taxi driver lectured us on the difference between Sydney and some hick town called Launceston), shocked and sickened at what my moment of stupidity might have cost us.
There’s a big question mark in our incident – for all we know, the man might have been genuinely caring. All the same, I’m thankful that a cab driver was looking out for us that day.
This Saturday is National Day of Thanksgiving and the people in focus are those who work in the transport and travel industries. Bus, train, tram, taxi and truck drivers. Pilots, transport companies, couriers and travel agents. A day to simply say, “thanks” for the work you do and the important role you play in turning the cogs of community.
It’s a sad reality that saying thanks doesn’t come naturally. Just ask my son – who, after three years of “please” and “thank you” reminders, still forgets more than I like.
In Luke 17:11-19 we read the account of 10 men healed of leprosy by Jesus. This was no everyday occurrence. Being healed of leprosy was a big deal back then. The incurable skin condition deemed people of the day unclean and they were relegated to the city’s limits. Of all the benevolent gestures a leprosy-riddled man might receive, you’d think Jesus’ healing act would have topped the list.
Yet, only one returned to thank him.
“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him…” (verses 15-16).
Jesus was understandably miffed that just one of the 10 had the decency, and manners, to give credit where credit was due. Do we need a National Day of Thanksgiving to remember our please and thankyous? Nine men healed of leprosy under Jesus’ watch say we do.
So let’s be that one who did return. Let’s open thankful eyes on the world around us, starting today.
(And a special thank you to the cab driver who was watching out for two Tassie girls that day in Sydney…)
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday May 26, 2014.