Photo by Jacob Mathers at Unsplash
An Underground Rail Strike led to pandemonium in London this drizzly morning. Major bus delays and absolute lock-jam for cars meant that I missed my booked train home to Edinburgh, and – shrugging my shoulders – surrendered to having to buy a new ticket for a later train – which delivered me, four and a half hours after boarding, to sunny Scotland.
But the inconvenience en-route isn’t really the point of my story. That would be Khadija, a young Somalian woman, the driver of my mini-cab-going-nowhere, who is so full of joy-filled sunshine we might have been reliving yesterday’s ABBA Concert. ‘Hellooo,’ she exclaimed several times in the course of a 50 minute crawl, ‘Hellooo: we’re alive! I woke up today and I thought ‘hey! – I’m still here.’’
And I came to learn about Khadija’s family, and about how Covid lockdowns had on the one hand rendered her unable to work (mini-cab driving) and on the other hand, immeasurable joy: she’d volunteered to support neighbours who struggled to shop, or with loneliness. She brought them food and – I don’t doubt for a second – entire summers’ worth of sunshine. But all this was nothing, Khadija told me, compared to the joy that those ‘helped’ gave, and continued to give, her.
Khadija is raising small children – and the well-being of her neighbourhood. ‘Other people reflect back to us all that we decide to be ourselves, each and every day. Smile and be happy then. And what you get back will have you sayin’ ‘Hellooo: we’re alive!’’
Missed trains and traffic jams, like clouds, have silver linings. I’ll long remember the ABBA concert and a lovely dinner in Paddington with my brother, his wife, and an old friend. But I won’t be forgetting conversation with Khadija anytime soon either: ‘you know what’s really great about my job? You get to see, every day, that the world is FULL of really beautiful people.’
THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC of your joy, Khadija!