I spoke in Charlottesville, Virginia, a few years ago, checking into a hotel about two hours before my speaking engagement. Since I needed to be at the engagement by 6:30 and it was a 15-minute ride, I requested a cab for 5:30, allowing myself plenty of time.
After freshening up, I returned to the lobby. No cab.
The hotel clerk told me that the cab would arrive at 6:00. I was a little anxious by this time and started pacing. Six o’clock came and the cab did not. I was getting desperate.
I asked the clerk if I could hire one of the staff to take me. He said, “The van just left for the airport and there is no one here now but me.”
I looked up and down the hall to find anyone I could grab and plead for a ride. No one.
Then the young man behind the desk—clearly a problem-solver—simply handed over his keys and said, “Take my car. I won’t be going anyplace until 11:00.”
I said, “Are you serious? You don’t know anything about me.”
He said, “You need a ride, and I have a car—take it!” Then he told me the model of the car—a rather old Mazda. He said, “Now the radio is on loud, so you’ll want to turn it off.”
I ran to the parking lot. When I found the car, I also found he had the seat so far back I could almost lie down as I drove. I practically vibrated to the loud sound of rap music as I drove out of the parking lot. I didn’t even bother trying to lower the volume as I sped off. Well, as much as you can speed off in a 1979 Mazda. You might say I “ambled” off. I made it to my speaking engagement with less than five minutes to spare.
When I got back to the hotel at 10:00, the young man did not want any money, although I insisted on a nice tip. What he was most interested in was how well my speech went. And I told him it went great because of him.
I probably learned more than my audience did that night because of this young man. He taught me the value of helping someone in need, without reservations. I could tell for him this was no big deal. A man needed a ride and he supplied it. I hope I, too, can be that spontaneously responsive to those with unusual needs.