By Elizabeth Barton //
If I learned anything last summer, it was that even the most experienced travelers are capable of making rookie mistakes.
Sometimes, it seems the entire universe conspires to make traveling difficult or stressful—the epitome of everything you never wanted as a foreigner in an unfamiliar land. I suppose it’s similar to life in general—some things simply don’t go according to plan.
Such was the case last summer when I awoke on Saturday, August 29th. Nearly 5,000 miles away from home in London, England, I’d set my alarm for 4:30 AM so I would have adequate time to prepare for my taxi, which was scheduled to arrive a half hour later and take me to the airport. Unfortunately, I’d turned my alarm off in my sleep and was now two hours behind schedule.
I’d spent the summer interning in Paris, and after a supplemental week in London, was more than ready for my own bed and the American delicacy that is ice water. My experience had been magical, but I was tired and alone, addicted to chocolate and burdened with luggage. I was ready to leave, and despite what had seemed meticulous preparation, I was about to miss my flight.
Upon drowsily recognizing my predicament, I jumped out of bed and used my host’s landline to call the taxi company. They’d sent a taxi two hours earlier and I expected they would be annoyed with me, but they weren’t. They assured me another taxi would be there within five minutes. Grateful but doubting I’d make my flight, I grabbed my luggage, gave hurried goodbyes and busted out the door to intercept a silver Toyota Prius in the driveway. The driver parked, exited the vehicle and motioned for my luggage with a gleaming smile. With an unidentifiable accent thick as trifle, he told me that although he didn’t know if I would make my flight, he would do his best to get me to the airport as soon as possible. With morning breath and a raging bed head, I thanked him and buckled up.
After a few minutes of conversation, the man told me he’d immigrated to Britain from India five years earlier. He’d worked a variety of jobs until he received his driver’s permit and applied to be a taxi driver. Vibrant and young, he and I engaged in friendly conversation. He broke speed limits and assured me that despite my frantic morning I looked like an angel—a blonde angel who didn’t need an ounce of makeup to impress. I laughed at his charm and he told me I didn’t know how lucky I was to have American citizenship. He said he knew a thousand people who would kill for what I already had.
Within fifteen minutes, we’d covered impressive ground both geographically and topically. His twists and turns were insanely precise and his face beamed with positivity. Something about him calmed my nerves—was it his gregariousness? His contagious optimism? Out of the blue, he recalled having worked at a barbershop when he first arrived in England and said that one evening when he was about to go home, two young men in suits entered the shop. He said they were kind, even-tempered boys and then he confirmed what I already knew: these two young men were Mormon missionaries, and they were about to change his life forever.
Laughing, the taxi driver continued to explain that with the help of these two missionaries, he’d converted to the LDS Church within a year. Subsequently, four of his friends had been baptized and many more had shown interest. This taxi driver was dedicated to the Church and fond of the Book of Mormon. I looked at him in disbelief as he said it’d been three years since his baptism. It was then that I told him I was Mormon too.
At first he didn’t believe me. I couldn’t blame him—Mormons are scarce in Britain, and he certainly didn’t expect me, this random, last-minute customer, to belong to his seemingly obscure and newfound faith. I could hardly believe he was Mormon either. Good people are good people, regardless of religion. There was, however, something about our shared convictions—a semi-mutual understanding of how the world worked and why we were there—that not only brought us together, but that brought peace during a time of panic. Although I don’t necessarily believe everything happens for a reason, I couldn’t chalk this one up to mere coincidence.
Miraculously enough, we arrived at the airport with 40 minutes until my flight was scheduled to leave. I couldn’t believe we’d arrived so quickly and neither could he. He remarked the drive had gone unexpectedly well and I wondered if he’d been sent to me by a higher power. This unassuming man with the most pure of intentions—a veritable angel sent in the wake of personal crisis to accomplish the impossible?
Perhaps needless to say, I made it home safe that day. But I couldn’t stop thinking about this effusive young man and the fact that I’d failed to get his contact information, let alone catch his name. The odds of a Persian, Mormon taxi driver zooming through traffic to arrive at one of the world’s busiest airports just in the nick of time… It was something I would remember for the rest of my life and a sure reminder that God was aware of me. He is aware of my strengths, my foibles, my needs and my wants. Even if He isn’t doing everything for me all the time—sending me specific people for every life situation or putting my favorite ice cream on sale when I’ve had a bad day—there are experiences like mine with the cab driver that testify to a higher power. These experiences have punctuated my life and given me reason to believe in something even when I don’t fully understand the “whys” and “hows” of everything I profess to believe.
Notwithstanding, what I do believe is that there are “angels” among us. This doesn’t mean these angels are always 100% angelic, but rather that God does have the ability to send us the right people at the right moments. Friends, teachers, cab drivers—you name it—they come when we are in need and often when we least expect. It’s up to us, then, to refrain from the rash extremes of complete destiny or divine apathy, and seek better understanding of the fortuitous “coincidences” that come our way.