I recently took an Uber in route to the Vegas airport and as the driver loaded my luggage into the trunk, I noticed the government issued license plate that identified him as a disabled vet.
We got to talking and when I asked which branch he served, he said he was an Army Ranger who trained countless soldiers and had completed six tours in Afghanistan before God decided he had other plans for the rest of his life.
In our short 11 minute trip, I learned he received a fifteen dollar raise in over two decades of service before he was too injured to continue doing what he loved for his country. “It is what it is”, he told me about his unplanned fate, and when I told him that had been my Dad’s life motto before he passed away from a service related illness 5 years prior, I learned that both our dads served in the Vietnam war and had been faced with similar health challenges as a result.
I learned he was receiving full disability and working on the side for extra “throw away” money because otherwise he was just making ends meet. I additionally learned he had just broken his cheap sunglasses that he wore daily due to his visibly damaged eye from the shrapnel of a roadside bomb that required constant shade.
I learned he loved his job as an Uber driver because he enjoyed the diverse company and extra spending money, but was sometimes shamed at the sense of entitlement he felt at the hands of some customers who acted superior to him, the lowly regarded Uber driver he was in their shallow eyes…
I learned he took great pride in knowing all the back roads of the area so he could get his customers to their destination in the quickest way possible. He kept his car in pristine condition to keep his customers comfortable and frequently went out of his way to give a positive experience, only asking for a high service rating in return to ensure a constant flow of business.
As he helped me unload my luggage and I handed him a small token of my appreciation, it seemed to have stopped him in his tracks. He couldn’t stop thanking me and told me that I just afforded him a new pair of sunglasses. He said he was rarely compensated for his service and that he felt I would be blessed beyond measure for my generosity of blessing him.
I had just spent three days in Vegas trying to get comfortable in sinking dollar bills into slot machines that soaked them up quicker than I could push the button. It doesn’t matter whether this veteran became a good hustler who learned how to gain sympathy from his customers with his battle story or if he was truly sincere in his heartfelt appreciation. The latter is what I choose to believe.
What I never got to tell him before he drove away, regardless of his overall intent of the brief crossing of our paths, was that his words in those moments left me with bigger blessings than I could have ever received from the winnings of a slot machine.
Being reminded of my dad, the sacrifices of those who protect our freedom and the importance of appreciating those whose lives may be forever changed because of their commitment that often comes with a price, it simply cannot be bought. Time and words are free, and moments of life’s little synchronized connections such as these are priceless.
Love a vet. Thank them for their service. Let them know they matter. Bless them and be blessed. It takes less than 11 minutes. And it doesn’t cost a thing.