17175500_s“The government only takes care of the Malays. No one really bothers about the Indian poor.” “Or the Chinese,” he added diplomatically. I was on the way to the airport and did what I normally do to get a feel of the pulse of the nation. I was talking to my cab driver.

I had used the services of this Indian gentleman before. He was friendly and drove carefully. And he was mad at the lot of the Indian community in Malaysia. He believed that the official leaders of his community were only concerned for lining their pockets. He believed that after fifty years of independence, his community had made no real progress.

I volunteered that there were poor in all communities. I suggested that, irrespective of what communities we came from, we ought to be concerned for the welfare of the poor in all communities. I told him that though I was Christian, I had participated in a candlelight vigil that was publicizing the plight of a Hindu widow.

When he heard that I was a Christian, he told me that his wife had recently become a Christian. He was Hindu but he had no objections. She had been seriously ill but had been healed when she received prayer at a church meeting. After her healing she decided to become a Christian.

He also shared that one of his wife’s relatives, a young boy, had been under a curse and was disturbed by evil spirits. They had brought the child to a Hindu temple. The temple had asked for money and they had paid. But the temple had done nothing for the child. In desperation, they had brought the child to the church. The church leaders had cast out the evil spirits and the child was cured. And the church didn’t even ask for any money. They just passed the offering bag around during the worship and you were not obliged to put anything in if you didn’t want to.

The cab driver said that he now joined his wife in church from time to time. He said the worship services were three hours long. “They spend the first two hours singing. They only pray for people during the last hour. I only join them at that time,” he said.

The church had also made it very clear that if you wanted to be a Christian, you had to get rid of the Hindu altars in your house. “It had to be one religion or the other. You couldn’t follow both. You have to choose.”

I am not sure how he felt about that but the cab driver then went on to talk about Jesus. He said that Jesus, though God, had become a human being, a regular guy, and walked among us. “He is good. He understands our struggles.” (This conversation was held mostly in Malay with a sprinkling of English. I think I understood most of what he said. I thought his Christology was spot on.)

I then went on to ask about his children. He said he had two, a boy and a girl. But his son had died in a motorbike accident five years ago. He had been nineteen then. “If he was alive, he would be twenty-four now,” he said betraying little emotion. “Why do young people ride their bikes so fast? The accident was all his fault. If a car had wrongfully banged him, we would have gotten some insurance money at least.” His son had gone into a coma after the crash, was sent to the intensive care unit, and died five days later without recovering consciousness. “My daughter is twenty-two. She is working.”

Suddenly I was very awake. And very sad. I touched his shoulder and said I was truly sorry. I had lost enough loved ones in my life to give him honest empathy. I didn’t say anything more. Nothing more needed to be said. And we soon arrived at the airport.

I paid my fare. As we stood next to the cab, I thanked him for his good service and said, “May Jesus bless you.” He seemed to receive the blessing warmly. I hope to use his services again next time I visit Penang. I very much want to know what else the Lord has been doing in his life.

On the flight back to Singapore, I was thinking how good it had been to have had that meaningful conversation with the cab driver. I could just as easily have switched off in the cab and taken a mini nap. I could have gone into “urban trance.”

People on busy streets worldwide are less likely to notice, greet, or offer help to someone else because of what has been called ‘urban trance.’ Sociologists have proposed that we tend to fall into this self-absorbed state on crowded streets, if only to gird against stimulus overload from the swirl around us. (Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence, New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2007, p.51)

We have to be so much more intentional to communicate with people, and with God, in a world where daily, we are assaulted with “stimulus overload.” But when we are “quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19),” with God and with others, we may be surprised at what we get to hear.