By: Allison Duvall, Manager for Church Relations and Engagement
I regularly find God in taxi cabs.
Whenever I travel for work, usually to a large city, landing late at night at an unfamiliar airport, I walk out to the taxi stand or use an on-demand app to find a ride.
Usually, my drivers are men, newcomers to this country, non-native English speakers. More than a dozen have been former refugees, each with amazing stories of their own American dream, each beaming with pride as he talks about his children, now in university.
A few years ago, I landed late at night at the Newark Airport (not my favorite). I was a bit exhausted, a bit anxious, a bit on edge. Ready to crash.
I deplaned and walked out to the ground transportation area. I called an Uber ride, and noted that my driver’s name was Abdelkarim. This calmed me. Abdelkarim means “Servant of the Most Generous.” Servant of God. I smiled. The car pulled up; Abdelkarim helped me navigate my luggage, the trunk, and my door. I climbed in.
Abdelkarim and I started talking, and as I listened to his soft accent, my ears heard a familiar cadence. He mentioned living in New Jersey for 25 years, so I asked about his family and whether they lived here too. His wife and children do, he said, but his parents live in his country – Morocco.
Then the conversation took off… He was so excited and rather surprised to learn I had studied in Morocco. We chatted about my time studying in Rabat, my friends and homestay family there, the warmth and graciousness of the people, and of course – at-tay b’na3 na3, the ubiquitous mint tea.
One mention of tea, and I was invited to his home to meet his family. And as any Moroccan would, he was insistent and serious. We exchanged phone numbers, and there’s a standing invitation for my husband and me to visit, at any time.
When he dropped me off at the hotel, he gave me a hug. It was heartfelt, for both of us.
It’s those amazing moments that just kind of leave you in awe… Moments that quiet any fears and doubts you might have and remind you that life is beautiful, grace is real, and God is present. Moments that lift you up and carry you through challenge, and sadness, and inspire you to keep going. That remind you why the work of refugee and immigrant welcome is so important: it is the work of building community, building the America we believe in.
I found myself thinking about Abdelkarim recently, with gratitude. It is people like Abdelkarim who remind me of the dream that is America, that we must keep working to realize. A place of freedom. A place of opportunity. A place that welcomes.
I regularly find God in taxicabs, especially when I’m anxious, frazzled, and overwhelmed. God knew where to find me that night in Newark. He sent Abdelkarim, with his warmth, good humor, lively conversation, and invitation to mint tea.