Eldred Marshall, Artist-in-Residence, Associate Director of Music Ministries
This past week, I did a concert tour of Toronto and its suburbs. I played Beethoven’s piano quintet arrangement of the Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 with the Odin String Quartet.
The Odin group is one of Canada’s leading string quartets. The three concerts were well received and all looked great.
After the tour was done, I was whisked across Ontario into Quebec, where I was to meet the leadership of the Society for the Study and Performance of Haitian Music in Montreal.
When I got to Montreal, suddenly things went sour.
Due to the fact that the snow on the ground was up to my knee, I decided to take an Uber to my Airbnb instead of the subway.
The Uber driver arrives, has the address in his GPS, helpfully loads my heavy and bulky luggage into his small trunk, and off we went. Or so I thought.
His GPS led him to a street that had the same name as the street on which the Airbnb is located, but it was on the wrong block (and wrong side of town).
He turned onto the street and stopped the car before he completed the turn. He said, “You’re here.” I said, “This isn’t right.”
We argued. He got out of the car as we argued, opened my door and told me to get out. I stepped out and we animatedly yelled about the fact that his GPS was wrong, and that he should use his eyes to see that we were not in the right place.
As I’m gesturing to the addresses on the duplexes, he went to his trunk, yanked my bag and threw it into the snow on the sidewalk. Perplexed, I froze at the continued lack of professionalism.
He commanded me in his thick, French-accented English to “walk down to the end of the block. The house is there.”
Before I could get my tote bag with my music scores and airline information, he drove off down the snow-covered street.
(I might add that we were being cursed out in French because we were blocking the street and another car wanted to pass through.)
Because music scores are quite expensive, I tried to call him directly through the Uber app. Unfortunately, my phone battery died.
Stranded in a residential neighborhood, I walked around, dragging this dead weight called my luggage through high snow in hopes of finding an open business so that I could at least find an electrical outlet.
Eventually, I found a place – fittingly, a private music and arts school. I walked up the stairs, went into the lobby, charged my phone and tried the Uber app again. I got in touch with the driver and we exchanged information.
At the same time I called a second driver, so that I could hopefully find this mysterious Airbnb. When he pulled up, I decided to vent to him in French, and I implored him to really be human and help me instead of trying to rely on GPS.
To my surprise, this man, whose app told him that the ride was cheap because the location was only 100m away, shut off his Uber device, turned off his GPS and instead pulled up a map to figure out where I was really supposed to be.
He asked me to call my Airbnb host and get directions from him. I told him that it would be easier if the two of them talked (as they’re both native French speakers and both live in Montreal). He obliged. Samir got me home.
Later that evening, I took a third Uber to the swank restaurant Chez L’évêque, where I dined with the president of the Haitian Music Society.
During this time, the first Uber driver, who still had my tote bag, finally replied to my many text messages and said that he was going to give me the bag “now” instead of in the morning. But he wanted $30 cash for the trip.
After dinner, I excused myself to walk in the snow, find an ATM machine and clear my head. In the quiet and bitter cold, I could hear “grace and mercy” swirling through my head.
So when I finally met up with the Uber driver, I chose to extend the grace that God gives me, despite the fact that he was incredibly disrespectful to me. So I gave him $40. He didn’t say thank you for the extra money, either.
Were my actions Godlike? Perhaps.
I had two options: take the bag, curse him out and throw some punches, or take the bag, give him money and wish him a nice life.
I chose to reflect my faith, the Fruit of the Spirit, and not my carnal feelings.
Not surprisingly, this is what God probably goes through when we, his people, continually disrespect him and don’t extend gratitude to him for the blessings he extends to us.
There is another application of grace in this story: Samir, the second Uber driver.
Judging by his tall height, looks and non-standard accent in French, he’s likely Lebanese.
Given my American accent (US-Lebanese relations are complicated on a good day), my utter confusion and the fact that the real location was much further than what Uber was going to pay him for the trip, he had absolutely no incentive to help me.
Had not Samir not saved me, I would still be aimlessly wandering the streets of Montreal in distress. I praise God for the grace of this Good Samaritan.
Given our rebellious nature, God has no incentive to serve us or to help us. Yet he does it all the time.
From the air we breathe, to the sun that shines, all the way up to sending Jesus to be our light, God’s grace is all around us.
Without it, we would be forever lost. If God can be gracious and merciful towards us, we must learn to be the same towards each other.
I learned about how grace works in real life the hard way this past weekend. I hope the next lesson isn’t as harrowing.
As it is written: “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)