I settle in to the taxi, hoping to get a bit of work done before my upcoming meeting. As the driver begins pulling away from the curb, I open my briefcase and take out a folder. Even as I try to settle in to my papers, I can see from the cabbie’s face in the rearview mirror that he wants to talk.
“So, whatta you in town for?” he asks.
“I’m giving a speech. A presentation to some business people,” I say, hoping to make it sound uninteresting so the driver will leave me alone.
He doesn’t take the hint. “Oh yeah? What’s it about?”
I’m not interested in giving the speech twice, so I offer the Reader’s Digest abridged version. “Hearing and heeding your life’s calling—doing the work you were born to do.”
My cabbie scoffs. “That’s a good one. You gotta section on how to make a million bucks while you sleep, too?”
Now he’s hooked me. “You sound skeptical.”
“Hey look, what am I supposed to say? Your life’s ‘calling?’ C’mon, I drive a cab here. What’s that got to do with a calling?”
I close my folder and catch the driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror.
“You weren’t born to drive a taxi?”
He just laughs.
“But you like your work well enough?”
He shrugs. “I guess it has its moments.”
“I’m interested. What are those moments?”
“You mean besides quittin’ time?”
I lean forward and put my hand on the back of the seat. “I’m serious. What is it about this job—besides the money—that you find satisfying? What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning?”
He smirks like he’s going to say something sarcastic but then stops. Gradually, his face softens. He laughs a little and says, “Well, there’s this old lady.”
I stay silent and he continues.
“A couple times a week, I get a call to pick her up and take her to the grocery store. She just buys a few items. I help her carry them into her apartment, maybe unload them for her in her kitchen, sometimes she asks me to stay for a cup of coffee. It’s no big deal, really; I’m not even sure she knows my name. But I’m her guy. Whenever she calls for a taxi, I’m the guy that goes.”
I wonder why. “Does she tip well?” I ask.
“Not really. Nothing special, anyway. But there’s something about helping her that, I dunno, just makes me feel good. I guess I feel like I’m making a difference in somebody’s life, like somebody needs me. I like to help out.”
“There’s your calling right there,” I say.
“What?” The smirk returns. “Unloading groceries?”
“You said you like to help out. That is a pretty clear expression of calling. ‘Giving care to people in need’ is how I would probably put it.”
A smile spreads across his face. “Well, I’ll be damned. I guess that’s right. Most of the time, I’m just a driver, but when I get that chance to help somebody—as long as they’re not some kinda jerk or something—that’s when I feel good about this job. So, whatta you know? I got a calling.”
He falls silent for the rest of the short trip. But I can see his face in the rearview mirror and even when we hit the midtown traffic, he’s still smiling.
Each of us, no matter what we do, has a calling. Of course, some jobs fit more naturally with our calling, but every working situation provides us with some opportunities for fulfilling the urge to give our gifts away.
Satisfaction on the job—and ultimately, in life—will, in part, depend on how well we take advantage of those meaningful moments. What this requires, though, is that we learn to uncover our calling. And in the contemporary world of work, this is no luxury; uncovering our calling is now, more than ever before, an essential life skill.