In The Trenches

Thanks, Barbara!

Published on June 15, 2021 Back to blog

This past Sunday, as the Uber app showed my driver stopped for about 15 minutes while only 5 minutes away from my location, I wondered what the issue may be. But, knowing that her arrival represented the end of a get-together with two of my closest childhood friends, I was fine with the unexpected delay.

When Barbara finally arrived, she immediately apologized and shared that she had to pull over to call 9-1-1 for her elderly mother who was unable to get off the toilet. I told her that I could get another car so she go to help her mother, but she refused to do so. She felt certain that her mom would be OK, and wanted to make sure I got to my destination. I didn’t argue.

As the drive began, Barbara started sharing her life story with me. After just spending time with my friends, I was in a great mood and happy to partake.  A 1st generation American with parents who immigrated from Germany, Barbara was a trained hair stylist who started her own small business in the late 90s. But, just as it started to be profitable, 9-11 changed the world and she was forced to close her doors. (We didn’t get into the details.) She was a single mom, proud of her daughter who put herself through college and achieved her dream of being a Groomer for an Olympic horse rider (except that COVID got in the way of the Olympics). And, without elaborating, it was clear that illness and/or other personal events prevented her from working for the last several years. She just recently began driving an Uber (which I later learned was a rental car) so she could buy a car for her daughter. 

With every word Barbara spoke, she emanated happiness and positivity. Then, mid-story, she asked me if I heard a grinding sound from the car, and immediately pulled over. As luck (or not) would have it, she had a flat tire. She turned around, with a big smile on her face, apologized for the inconvenience and told me she needed to end the ride.

I had no idea where I was, but was more worried about Barbara than getting back to my family traveling in LA. I told her how impressed I was with her positivity, and admitted that I would likely not have dealt with the circumstances of her day with nearly as much grace. With that small complement, she barely broke into tears and thanked me for the kind words. 

While sitting in the back of my second Uber ride, which had a vibe I imagined to be similar to being in the front row of a DJ concert, I pulled out my phone to write down some lessons from this experience:

  1. Attitude is everything. The combination of Barbara’s optimistic view of life, along my good mood, turned what could have been a completely disastrous experience into a beautiful one.
  2. Positivity provides clarity. I can share from experience, that a negative attitude can cause one to think less clearly. Had I entered the experience with a negative/bad mood, I’d probably be writing a complaint to Uber rather than writing this blog.
  3. A giving heart is a joyful heart. Barbara was renting a car to be an Uber driver so she could earn money to help her daughter buy a car. As strange as that may sound, it demonstrates how giving her heart is – and I’m certain that contributes greatly to her overall happiness and joy about life. (See prior blog about the Dalai Lama).
  4. Kind Words Brighten Everyones Day. My parting remarks to Barbara not only made her feel good, but they made me feel good. Kind words can have an incredible affect on both parties involved. We (I) need top do more of that.
  5. Positivity cancels out negativity. In most other circumstances, the pounding music in the second Uber would have made me crazy. But, instead, I assumed that it helped put the driver in a better mood. So, I let it be and, instead, focused on taking these notes. The music somehow became barely unnoticeable background noice.

Thank you Barbara for making my day in LA even brighter. I hope your mom is OK and your daughter provides you with the love that you clearly share with her.

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners