Another timely lesson!

Last Thursday I was preparing to return to PHX from an out of town business trip. I was exhausted, drained and counting the hours in my mind that it would actually take to get into my own bed. (one hour cab ride, one hour airport security, 2 hour flight, 1 hour to get home, commune with family and go to bed (eek another 5 hours) I braced myself, called a cab outside of San Francisco gearing up for an hour’s ride in heavy traffic.
My Cab showed up and it was a broken down minivan. As I approached the cab the driver rolled down the front passenger window and said, “The back doors are broken you will have to sit in front!” Oh Lord, I just don’t have it in me today to sit in the front of the cab and make idle conversation for one whole hour! I got in to the very broken, very dirty cab and I gave myself a quick pep talk! My thoughts ran the gamut from, “This sucks”, to “Be nice, he is just doing his job,” to “silence is OK, just be still and this will be over soon”!
We exchanged small talk, the weather, the traffic, families, etc. He asked me what I did for a living and about my children. He was a young man (probably 26-33), of Hispanic, or perhaps Hawaiian descent. There soon became an easy comfortable conversation and I asked him about his life as well. This is what I heard for the next 40 minutes or so….
Julian (the cab driver) had a long family history of joining the military. He went to SAC STATE, so he could enter as an officer. He went straight to IRAQ after graduation and his younger brother followed a year later. He told me stories of Saddam’s Elite force, which in his description were recruits from the prison system (murderers, rapists, etc) that were unleashed to go out and kill american soldiers. He lost his 4 best friends watching 2 of them die and at the end of his tour he was in Afghanistan when he got word that his little brother was killed as well.
Julian had seen too much and started to suffer mentally, came back to the states and spent some time at the VA. Upon his arrival they put him on 5 different medications, a combination of anti-anxiety, anti-depressants, and sleeping pills. He told me, “I felt more ill on the pills than I had prior and they kept throwing more and more pills at us, Pills, Pills, and more pills, I had never drank or taken drugs prior to my tour and now I was dependent on everything!” Julian got a good job and was traveling back and forth to the East Coast helping train in construction, but he could not calm his mind. He started having problems at work and was let go after several very angry outbursts to employees that resembled Middle Eastern Men!
He was diagnosed with PTSD, joined, AA, and found a good local counselor. The counselor (Middle Eastern) as luck would have it helped him to get a part time job (driving a cab) and got him involved in a good rehabilitation program. He now works 20 hours a week, go’s to AA meetings, and counseling twice per week. Julian says, after 2 years being home he is finally feeling a little better, he still has night mares, he still has sleep issues and I ask, “Would you do it again?”, this was his reply-
“I look at someone like you (me, Michelle) and see a hard working Mom of three boys, who loves her family, and I think thats why I did it, for people like you, thats my perspective now, I have a Mom and had a brother and we had a nice family and I wanted them protected as well!” He says, “I look around and see a scary world, people that don’t care, people that have severe addictions and are just being fed more substances, people running away from whats really going on, the reality, like what I saw in the Middle East” and I get depressed then I meet someone like you (again me Michelle) and I know I did it for the right reasons, real families who care)
OK, now I have tears streaming down my face, a swell of emotion washes over me and I don’t want to get out of this dilapidated old cab. I want to listen more to this young man who is so wise beyond his years and has been through so much life for his young age. I give him a hug, wish him well, and get out of the cab feeling empty and shallow. How can I be good enough for someone to fight for? An hour ago I was whining in my head about getting in the cab and not wanting to talk…!
God is always putting people right smack in my path to remind me to take the time, be human and that there is a story out there for everyone that needs to be heard probably at the time we need to hear it. This young man could have been my son, and my heart breaks for his Mother who really gave up 2 sons. Just a reminder for me to stop, breathe, be present, and with all that is going on in the Middle East, keep the young women and men involved close in my heart and prayers!

Posted in Blog on September 8th, 2013.

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