The Big Red Truck

Last week I was in DC for the White House hosted summit, The United State of Women, to participate on a panel member for Second Chance Success for Women and Girls in Criminal Justice.

I’d arrived early for a meeting at the White House and I was staying at a beautiful AirBnB on a tree lined DC street just a few miles from the WH. Ready early, I went outside to catch a cab. No cabs anywhere. Not a cab neighborhood. So I walked two blocks to the big intersection. FYI, I’m no spring chicken; I’m 70. I used to love to walk; not anymore. I use a cane.

At the light I looked at the traffic and the big red truck caught my eye. As I walked over and knocked on the window, the young black man driving looked pretty surprised. I could almost read his mind. “What’s this old white lady all dressed up and knocking on my window for?” And I could hear my late southern father rolling in his grave.

“Hi, I’m Sue Ellen Allen from Arizona. I have an appointment at the White House at 9 and I’m desperate for a cab. Any idea where I can catch one?”

He asked if I had Lyft. I do but don’t know how to use it. He offered to pull over and show me how. Said he drove for them part time. As I handed him my phone, I asked if he would take me to the WH but he said he was late for his son’s school. Then something touched his heart, maybe my pathetic fear of being late. He said he’d drive me.

Did I mention this truck was BIG? When I opened the door to get in the cab, I had to climb up to reach the seat.

My new hero introduced himself as Frank Walker, we shook hands and off we went. Turns out a few miles in DC is about 25 minutes. The traffic is stunning, but Frank Walker was going to make sure I made it on time.

Meanwhile we learned we were kindred spirits politically and that started a great conversation about the current presidential campaign. Then we added racism to the dialogue. He admitted being worried about his two sons and what they were hearing at school. We agreed babies aren’t born racists; racism is taught. I asked if he’d ever heard of a musical from the 50’s, South Pacific. He hadn’t so I Googled a song from the play, You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught. Written in the 50’s by Rogers and Hammerstein, it’s a perfect reflection of today:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

Frank said there was a reason we met that Monday morning. He needed to hear that song. And I needed to share his big red truck and his spirit. When he dropped me off in front of the WH, we hugged each other and he promised to keep in touch. I hope he does. In the middle of all this vitriolic hatred tossed about, Frank and I shared his big red truck and a hope for more openness, trust and love. Thanks, Frank Walker. I will never forget you.