I don't make resolutions, but I decided early this year that I wanted 2010 to be largely about giving, in my own life and in what I teach my son. Giving to others, to nature, to ourselves. What does true generosity entail? My son has further kicked off the theme, though I can't take the credit, as I've been pretty negligent in imparting any lessons so far.
this was my first story this year.
Thomas Chappell didn't know Rita Van Loenen. When he met her (he as a cab driver, she his charge), things didn't go too well at first. A few weeks later, he was offering up his kidney to her. Go read the story. Good people, going about the business of trying to live.
Tom Chappell's life is, on the surface, largely incomprehensible to me. Take his profession as a cab driver. (On a list of "People who should never be in charge of driving others to unfamiliar locations," I'd rank just below the couple who trusted their GPS more than their eyes, and got lost in the forest for three days.) Or take the fact that, for thirty years, Tom missed out on a father-daughter relationship. I can't even imagine that. Or take, even, shoe shopping. Only one of us likes it. (Hint: It's not me.)
But there are two things about Tom that immediately struck a particular chord in me.
First, there's getting lost. He may not freak out at the task of driving others around, but he does miss a turn or two. After a conversation with him last month, I was busy copying down his taxi number and missed the freeway turn. That's OK, though: When he was in his cab, telling his story to CBS, he missed the freeway. He knows about missed turns, in the car and in real life.
Second, there's this idea that Tom and I seem to share, that if there's something or someone about which we know little but kind of wonder, well, why not see what's what? Libraries, honesty, and pointed questions are our friends.
These traits led me to become a writer and chronicler, of my life and others' -- but one who, more often than not, becomes lost on the way to or from stories. (Yes to and from. That means I can't find my own house, on a regular basis.)
Those same traits in Tom, plus a huge dose of generosity, led him to Rita.
After these small similarities, I realized Tom really wouldn't be incomprehensible to the most different of people. Because he's so honest, so much there, that you can't help smiling and nodding at everything he says, and then you find that you're still thinking about this guy, this stranger who didn't really try to befriend you but still stuck with you, weeks later.
Thank you, Tom and Rita, for sharing your story with me. It's pretty amazing.