I realize it's been a while since I've written anything. I could come up with some excuse about how busy I've been, which definitely wouldn't be a lie, but that's not to say I haven't had time to write. I just haven't wanted to. I've had something on my mind for a while now, but every time I sat down to write, it didn't feel right. But something about tonight gave me inspiration and I'm ready.
I'm sitting here in my cozy little room listening to the rain hit the rocks outside my bedroom window. Alison Krauss' smooth and mellow voice is coming through the speakers, and I'm content. I like that word, "content." It doesn't force you to be happy, it just asks that you not be anxious, upset, etc. At this very moment, I'm content.
This past month taught me a lot about myself in a lot of different ways. I was very happy to wave goodbye to 2010. It had its bright moments, but all-in-all, it wasn't so much my year. I embraced the start of 2011 and was determined to make it a better year. Nine days in, I embarked on a trip that would leave an incredible mark on my life for multiple reasons.
I'm not going to do a full recap of how amazing the trip was. Words truly cannot describe it. Let's just say that every time I go to work and walk past the Rane Room, I get chills when I see that crystal trophy sparkling in its case.
That being said, I'll set the stage a little bit to get to where this story really needs to go...
After the game, as the clean-up crews took over (those people SO don't make enough money), I still didn't want to leave. I walked down to the railing by the field and was lucky enough to see a friend who grabbed a handful of confetti and threw it into my bag (Thanks Bo!). My roommate and I left the stadium and wandered aimlessly in a state something between "Oh-my-gosh-it-is-SO-COLD" and "Did-we-really-just-win-that-game?" We called our amazing cab driver, Jay (more on him in a little bit), who said he'd come get us, and finally made it back to the hotel hours after the game had ended. Too exhausted to even think about going out, we passed out almost immediately.
We had already made plans with Jay for him to take us to the airport the next morning. It was going to be a little more expensive than we would have liked, but he was reliable and we knew it was the safest option to make our flights on time.
When we woke up Tuesday morning, it was another gorgeous Arizona day. Jay was right on time (20 minutes early, in fact), and there was a huge part of me that wanted so badly to stay in that beautiful place. With a flight to catch, we showered and packed and headed downstairs to meet Jay.
This is a good opportunity to tell you a little bit about Jay. Jay is a talker. More so than me (no sarcastic comments please), I'm not even kidding. He took us to and from the game Monday and talked the ENTIRE way there and back. He told us a lot about his life, jobs he'd had, his family...anything and everything. We listened politely and nodded and said "Uh huh" at the appropriate times, but let him do most of the talking. Jay also sounded as though he had been smoking a pack a day since he was old enough to hold a cigarette. He was a little rough around the edges. He was a big man, tall, broad-shouldered, a little scruffy on the face. He had a head full of dark brown hair, and weathered tan skin. Nothing unapproachable, but not the most clean-cut either.
One of the things I had picked up on throughout Jay's stories was that he had spent a good portion of time mentoring juveniles that had been placed in detention centers or who had been in trouble with drugs, alcohol, crime, etc. I had an immense amount of respect for him and his ability to help kids with those kinds of problems. Until Tuesday morning, I didn't think much of it other than that.
The ride to the airport that morning was pretty uneventful. Jay talked some more, we listened, and watched the beautiful Arizona mountains out our windows for the last time. We were getting closer to the terminal, and Jay was remarking on how much less crowded it was than it had been earlier in the morning. I drew my attention back to him as he pulled up to the curb. He parked the car and before we could reach for the door handles, he looked into the rear view mirror and spoke to us one last time.
Jay's message was pretty simple. He issued us a challenge. He told us that he wanted us to take some time once a week, a few times a month, just however often we could to do something to change the life of young people in our community. His words warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face. But Jay wasn't done.
"Here's what I'm going to do," he said, so matter-of-factly I thought it might be a joke. "If you can promise me that you're going to do that," he said, "that you're going to take some time to help these kids, then your cab ride is free. You don't owe me a thing. But if you don't do it, then we may not see each other again, but if you don't do it, you're going to know that you have a debt to me until the day you die."
I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to think. The man had just forfeited $60 on nothing more than a promise to do something good for someone else. I'm pretty sure I stood there with my mouth hanging open for a good 10 seconds before I could come up with a reply. Meanwhile, Jay just got out of the car, lifted our bags from the trunk, and placed them on the sidewalk. I thanked him profusely and we promised him we would honor his request. He smiled, told us to have a safe trip home, and drove away.
As I headed inside, a lump rose in my throat and I choked back tears at the kindness and true goodness I had just experienced. It was more than just not having to pay for a cab ride. I began to realize that that was one of times that I knew a person had been put into my life for a reason.
I've thought about Jay several times since then and I often wonder if he wonders if we're going to honor his promise. I hope someday I'll be able to find Jay and tell him that I've been able to. I don't have anything concrete in place yet, but I've started putting together some ideas for things I could do to fulfill my promise and repay my debt.
I made another promise of my own, and one that Jay doesn't know anything about. I promised to no one in particular that I would never let Jay's story die. It's a simple "pay it forward" concept, but one that we don't get to witness often enough.
If you have ideas of your own on ways to "repay the debt" or want to be a part of fulfilling Jay's promise, let me know. In the coming months, I'm going to have something in the works, and something that I hope is as meaningful to someone else's life as Jay was to mine.
Oh yeah...Jay said he was pulling for Auburn too...go figure...