The Kindness Cab is all about connecting people. Its all about hope. When I bumped into Aaron in New York City these two defining reasons for embarking on my cross country trip came sharply into focus. I suggested Aaron write a guest blog for me and he obliged. I hope you are inspired by his story. I most certainly am. -Leon
I was at a point of frustration and stagnancy in my life when I happened upon your Kindness Cab. I was lost in my sophomore year at a large, prestigious institution at which I wasn’t quite sure I belonged, and struggled to figure out what kind of future it was shaping for me. Undoubtedly, I greatly appreciate the position that I’m in; it’s not every day that a kid from a South Central Los Angeles public school gets a full-ride to an Ivy League school. Yet still, I constantly yearn for something within missing in my life.
I was a quiet child, content with my imagination or various books my mom would bring me from the library where she worked. I was a total nerd and proud of it, though I had few real friends to speak of and my divorced parents fought often. But my passion for literature and technology kept me out of trouble, off the streets and in the house. In the house and in my head, where there was emotional safety and security. I created an emotional fortress of my passions, fortified by fictitious characters in novels and virtual reality. I built this fortress to protect myself from people who may mean me harm or ridicule me, a defense mechanism that persists to this day.
So here I am, writing to you while I stand at a personal crossroad in my life, one in which I’m realizing I actually quite enjoy socializing and connecting with others,yet atthe first window of opportunity to make meaningful connections, I freeze out of fear, then question my actions in frustration. Is it a fear of the inevitable vulnerability, or that I fear creativity? I say “creativity” because meeting strangers is liberating. It allows you the opportunity to redefine yourself, to wipe the slate clean. Strangers don’t have preconceived notions of you or projections of who you are. They know nothing about your strange quirks or past mistakes. They’ve neither heard me speak in class nor seen my awkward dancing at parties! Yet time after time again, I stand hesitant, frozen in fear of the potential vulnerability. I stay put within my childhood fortress, safely out of reach of that human touch and vulnerability I yearn for.
Thus, every few days I bike. Ibike to Brooklyn, Harlem, the Bronx, Jersey, anywhere. I bike to discover new wonders that exists but a few miles from my dorm. To rekindle that sense of freedom sorely yearned for. But most importantly, I bike to form a connection with the microcosm of human interaction that is a New York street corner. Whereas a car allows one to exist within a glass bubble of isolation, cycling breaks down those barriers and makes one vulnerable to human contact. In essence, riding into the evening sun recharges my spirit for another day.
That day I ran into Leon, the white 323 area code gleaming on the side of the Kindness Cab immediately caught my glance. I thought, “What is a Los Angeles cab driver doing out here?” I sat there on my bike and pondered this for a few minutes. I thought, maybe it was a mistake? A joke? An incredibly lost cab driver? I thought through a few more possibilities until suddenly I had a grand, albeit obvious, thought: Why don’t I just ask? So against my fortress’ army of defense mechanisms, against my fear of vulnerability, I lumbered over to the two men talking next to the cab and shyly asked, “Whose cab is this?”
I spent the next week reading and discussing the book with friends, yet between midterms and life I let it sit on my shelf untouched. Yet yesterday, when I was at a low period of uncertainty with myself and my academic potential, I remembered this unfinished read and picked it up again. I polished off page by page, watching the chapters and hours alike fly by, until I was greeted by the epilogue. To say that it inspired me and left me reinvigorated is an understatement. I felt myself in your shoes through every step of tragedy and triumph, setbacks and leaps of faith. I admired your courage and persistence.Yet through this inspiration, I had but one thing to ask myself: what can I take from this book’s lesson, and how can I apply it to my daily life?
ThoughI am but a young man with a kaleidoscopic collection ofaspirations at my disposal, one of my main ones has been to inspire others to travel and meet new people, to learn their stories and document their own transformations. Introspective Journalism, if I may. Your kindness has inspired me to pursue this dream, to not shy away from vulnerability, but to seek it out, if not (dare I say) actually thrive in it! I wholeheartedly believe in the good that you’re aiming to expose in the world, and now I ask myself, how can I be a part of something this beautiful, this transformative, this rejuvenating?