I was recently riding in a taxi in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and as a visitor to this astounding metropolis (its hugeness is difficult to comprehend), I pondered how its citizens fit the horrendous traffic challenges into their daily lives. More specifically, I wondered how my taxi driver could eek out a living shuttling people around when he spends most of that time in his vehicle, consuming gas, and not moving because the roads are so congested one could easily think one might not reach one's destination in this lifetime.
So I asked him. After advancing about half a mile in twenty minutes, he had re-set the meter to zero, saying it was only fair to erase the charges incurred so far because, well, we weren't getting anywhere. I told him, in very broken Portuguese which he understood or mercifully pretended to, that I thought this was very kind. He replied that he believed it was the right thing to do. I countered that the traffic was not his fault, and questioned how he could make any money if he did this for his customers whenever traffic was heavy, which is always. He told me he did not make much money, but that this way, he earned his customer's trust, and that, to him, was priceless.
The cynic in me thought, for a nano-second, that this was a ploy to gain my sympathies, and perhaps a large tip. But, from a sense of the quiet contentment that this outwardly simple man exuded, my intuition told me otherwise. During the rest of the (very long) drive, I thought about what I would do if this is how I earned my wages, and whether many others would forfeit income for a stranger's trust. I thought not.
We reached my destination and I handed him a generous tip. He refused it. And I am left hoping that the trust he gained from me sustained him in a way I don't quite understand. I guess it must have.
There are otherworldly, Mother Teresa-type ways of giving, and, I suppose, receiving. And then there are the tiny ways that don't make headlines, but make for a man's contentment.