It is no surprise that I had not tried the Uber App until this week. I am not exactly an early adopter of technology. In fact, I am much more inclined to let other people get the latest gadgets and apps and work out the kinks. Lots of people had told me about the cost savings using this new private car service that is rapidly becoming the taxi of choice for people around the country. On Monday, I had to get to the Miami airport from my friend’s house in Homestead, Florida and decided to give it a try.
After downloading the app and setting up my account, I discovered how incredibly easy it was to use. Within about 15 minutes Jose arrived in a Black Chrysler 200 and our adventure began. He politely asked me to sit in the front seat and treated me like a new friend. To be clear, apparently anyone going to the airport with Uber is going to get asked to sit in the front seat so that airport authorities who are not particularly thrilled with this new service will not be alerted.
As we headed up the road together, I discovered that Jose was 72 year old Cuban immigrant who had lived in the USA for over forty years. He has some pretty strong views about the current easing of tensions with Cuba as he had spent two years in jail there before coming to America as a refugee. He seemed a little embarrassed about his halting English and kept using the word “pero” for “but”. Despite this I could understand what he was saying just fine and appreciated his willingness to chat on what was going to be a long ride through traffic at that time in the morning.
Jose’s story was really interesting. He has started out as am ambitious young man willing to do whatever it took to get ahead and make a name for himself. Fairly quickly he got involved in home repair and building houses. Somewhere along the way he acquired his first home to develop for sale and this began his long career as a real estate developer. He became quite successful and eventually was developing and building large tracts of land and several members of his family were involved in the business too. Then it all fell apart.
In 2008, he was working on a development of over 300 homes and had borrowed millions from the bank. When the housing bubble burst, he lost everything and had to start all over again. As he was telling me this story, I was surprised at his demeanor. He was not resentful or bitter, but seemed to have accepted what had happened to him. Just as I was beginning to wonder about this incredible change in life circumstances, he casually mentioned his church. He also told me about another man, a friend of his, who had also lost everything at about the same time and had committed suicide. Clearly his faith and his church had played an important part in helping him through such a difficult circumstance.
Our trip was coming to a close when Jose got a call on his cell phone from one of his sons. This son had worked closely with him in the real estate business and was now a manager a local Home Depot. While I could not hear the whole conversation, you could tell that this was not an unusual circumstance. Apparently, his son had just called to check and see how his “Papi” was doing and it sounded like they kept in contact pretty frequently. As he hung up, I was touched to hear Jose say, “Have a good day, I love you son.” While Jose may have lost all his material wealth in 2008, he still has what matters most – a strong family and a strong faith.
Who knew I would learn so much about a stranger on my Uber ride to the airport. As we were parting, he wished me a good trip and I felt like I had made a new friend. I sometimes pray for divine appointments in my ministry. On this day, I had simply prayed for a safe trip to the airport and God provided the appointment anyway. Next time I use Uber, I think I will pray more intentionally and see how God will open my eyes to what He is doing in the world around me.