I couldn’t help noticing something on the dashboard of the cab I was riding in this broiling afternoon in late June: a big snapshot of a college grad, with mortarboard and gown, holding a diploma, smiling proudly, maybe the driver’s son. I couldn’t actually see my driver through the grimy Plexiglas partition so I leaned forward, pointing at the picture.
“Congratulations,” I said. “Your son?”
“No,” he answered, “that’s me.”
I felt kind of a lump in my throat. But he didn’t seem embarrassed or sad, so why should I? I was able to get a better look at him: middle-aged, Middle Eastern.
The photo was a message: I’m not just some dumb taxicab driver. I went to school. I am accomplished. It was right below his hack license photo so more observant riders than I would make the connection without asking. The photo was also a reminder, I imagine, to the driver himself: You are somebody. You have an education. You came to this country willing to do anything to better the life of your family.
The end of graduation season is here. All spring I’ve seen graduates strolling proudly around the city in their caps and gowns, trailed by excited parents and admiring younger siblings. One of the great things about June is its celebration of education and the recognition of its paramount importance in our lives.
An education is one of the great honors in life and I sometimes forget how unbelievably grateful I should be for mine. I should be down on my knees thanking God for the opportunities it has given me. My education—and my teachers—are as much responsible for what I have achieved in life as I am.
If you can’t look back over your life and see at least a couple of teachers who made all the difference in how you see the world and yourself, I would be very surprised. I remember my teachers. That’s how I remember what I learned. And those days when I crossed a stage, received my diploma and flipped my tassel are moments in time that defined me.
There is nothing as valuable as an education, nothing more deserving of respect. That’s what my cabbie was saying. That’s what I needed to remind myself of. That’s what June is all about. As I paid the fare he turned around.
“Want to see my sons?”
He flipped open the glove compartment. Taped to the inside were snapshots of four young men, all in caps and gowns, all smiling with a familiar pride, holding diplomas.
I shook the driver’s hand and said, “Thank you. It was an honor to ride in your cab.”