Alim is a Jazz musician originally from Russia and now living in Kentucky. Silvernus is a graduate student from Cameroon studying finance in the US. Paul is a retired marketing professional who supports Donald Trump  Angela is a mother of two who extricated herself from an abusive marriage and found a partner she can trust. Juan carefully saves his money so that he can take a long trip every six months – he has been most recently to Columbia and he has trips scheduled for Japan and Australia this year.

What do all these people have in common? They have given me rides. I recently stopped renting cars on my business trips and starting ride sharing with Uber and Lyft. With very few exceptions, the people who have given me rides have chatted, shared, laughed, and in one case, cried with me. I have learned a lot about what is important to them, what they enjoy, how they spend their time, and what is challenging.

Alim, who speaks both Russian and English, offered a really interesting perspective on this past election – several things I had not considered. Silvernus inspired me with his story of bringing his family to this country even with the challenge of learning a new language and culture. He told me how driving had given him the opportunity to practice speaking in English (his English was outstanding!) Paul expressed gratitude that we could have a respectful conversation about politics from two very different perspectives. Angela blew me away with her strength, courage, and honesty in owning her part of the relationship she had left behind. Juan’s excitement about travel and his willingness to work extremely hard to support his passion left me smiling long after the ride.

There’s something about the whole setup. I am getting into their car. I am the guest. They know the places we are driving through. I have gotten awesome dining and sightseeing advice. The best burger I have ever had was the direct result of Sandy’s recommendation. Sandy is a competitive Tae Kwon Do athlete who has just been accepted into the police academy. By the way, her burger suggestion was Au Cheval in Chicago – amazing!

Human connection. What a precious thing. Ride sharing has offered me the opportunity to find some connection upon arriving in a new city or as I depart. These moments of connection are no small thing, even if they are only for a few minutes. Being human is a miracle and being human can be hard. We can all benefit from reminders that we are not alone – that we are part of something larger – that everyone we meet has a complex inner life that they are trying to make sense of. This is the reason I love getting into a stranger’s car.