Sometimes we are the teacher and sometimes we are the student.
Last weekend on my way home from Calgary I took a very early morning Uber to the airport. By coincidence or by fate, I got Hafiz as my driver. Twenty five minutes later, I was dropped off and felt like I had just left a continuing education workshop for my job.
Hafiz was the teacher and I was the student.
Anyone who knows me knows I talk about my EYES UP philosophy. The idea that we never know who is sitting next to us, or helping us in a store, or in our Uber. If our eyes are down and looking at our screen, we miss amazing opportunities to meet fascinating people. Our world needs more compassion and empathy and that comes when we hear other peoples stories and learn about those around us.
Climbing into his car at O dark 30, I could have easily rested my eyes, scrolled through my phone, social media posts, text messages or 27,087 unread emails. But instead I opened my ears and simply asked “How are you doing today?”.
Hafiz shared that he came to Canada in 2017 and has two kids. He drives an Uber because his oldest son is mentally and physically disabled and it helps with the expenses of caring for him. It offers the flexibility needed to care for someone disabled.
He then told me about his precious daughter who is a junior in high school. He tenderly spoke about their relationship— how he wants her to be whatever she wants in the world because of the sacrifices made to get to where they are today. He shared that in his home country they often talk about becoming a “master of something” and believe that will lead you to success. “Do one thing and work very hard at it if you want be accomplished” he was always told.
But Hafiz doesn’t agree with that. He said that he wants her to “master being smart” which means she learns new things, explores the world and finds her passion. He said she can be smart at math, art, music, dancing, travel, writing, gardening and those things will bring more joy to her life than just mastering one thing. He told me he uses cooking to teach her to take risks, possibly fail with certain recipes and see that great things come from trying new things that seemed challenging at first.
And then he touched my heart…
“I remind her that I’ll always be shoulder to shoulder with her. I am her father now but one day I’ll be her best friend. She has to walk her path and find her way but no matter where she goes, and even if I’m not physically there, I’m right next to her, shoulder to shoulder.
If I walk behind her, I would probably be pushing her along in the direction I want her to go. If I walk in front of her, I will miss the moments that happen now. But if I walk shoulder to shoulder, I allow her to chose her path and I get to join in her journey.”
Sage advice shared and deep gratitude for such wise words .
I got out of the Uber smarter and enlightened. I realized that while my kids have all grown and flown, I am still shoulder to shoulder with them, even if we are not together every day. I realized that I have allowed my kids to pick their own path— and while it hasn’t always been easy— I feel blessed they included me in their journey. I was more aware of what true “smart” looks like. It’s not GPA based or test based or I-have-an-Ivy-degree based. Instead, true smart means to see the real value in life— to learn, to explore, to grow, to fail, to be challenged, to connect and to deeply love the ones you love most.
I have always liked the quote: People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Many times life lessons come from unexpected sources, or sources we were not aware of at the time. Our lessons come in random moments and situations that may be awkward or uncomfortable. Our lessons come when we are just trying to get from point A to point B.
But if we stop long enough to appreciate the teacher or the moment or the lesson, we walk away with a different lens on life. And our world and the way we relate to others is created by what we focus on. If we alter or shift our lens, we change our perspective and this ultimately changes our outcome.
At the end of the ride, I thanked Hafiz, gave him a hug when he got my luggage out, asked for a picture and wished his family all the best. And then I proceeded to give him five stars and a hefty tip.
Teachers aren’t paid enough.