Yesterday I flew back from Chicago to LA. The reason for my travel was my cousin’s wedding. We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend for the wedding. It was placed up at one of the northern most points in Michigan know as Charlevoix. The Lake Michigan water up there is so clear you can see every little pebble under the constantly moving, glass-like surface of the water.
My cousin got to marry her best friend. Her and her now husband exchanged vows at a converted castle that overlooked the Michigan countryside. It was a perfect setting. Now they get to move forth together to start their American life and create their ideal family. They were both given so much by their families that they can start on the right foot to produce and raise children that will have a prosperous life.
Not everyone is given that ideal starting point as a child, however.
When I got off the plane at LAX I needed a Lyft to pick me up and take me to my apartment. After about ten minutes of waiting my Lyft driver, Marilyn, was ready to pick me up at Terminal 5. I got in her Seabreeze green Prius and we were off.
We exchanged pleasantries. I told her my reason for being at the airport. She told me she had traveled to Charlevoix years ago. She traveled to many different small American towns during her 36 years as a computer consultant. During her hey day she advised and instituted many systems and programs into the network infrastructures of many multinational companies from Countrywide Insurance to Bank of America.
As our conversation continued I started to ask her about her entrepreneurial spirit. How did she start working for herself? How did she gain the confidence to go out on her own?
She responded plainly that it came out of necessity. She had been working since she was 11 years old.
“Why?” I asked, “You were working part time gigs?”
“No, I needed to work to pay rent. I was paying rent to my parents.”
“Were you doing that out of choice or your parents made you?”
She paused for a moment. As I sat motionless in the backseat, she looked in her rearview mirror and we locked eye contact.
“You really want to know?”
“If you’re willing to share, absolutely.”
“My father was a Hitman for the Mafia Outfit in Vegas. When I told him I didn’t want to be a part of the family at a young age, He told me I needed to pay him rent. I was 11 and couldn’t find a place of my own so I got a job and did it to survive.”
The questions began piling in my head. I had a hard time making sense of what I was just told. Was her father still alive? Did she have siblings? Was her real name even Marilyn? We continued further into her life. She told me of her drug addictions that began when she was a child. She knew in her moral fiber that the actions being made by the people around her were wrong and she couldn’t have any part of it. She took drugs to escape the confusion in her head. She has had regular contact from the authorities to testify against her family and she told me she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She feared of the repercussions. Her brother and sister followed in her father’s footsteps in a life of crime. As soon as she graduated High School and went off to college she left and never looked back.
She found that later, in a logic course she took, that programming and logical thinking helped her make sense of the world around her. There was a clear understanding of thought processes and a true understanding of the world around her. She used her adept understanding in that field to create a professional life for herself.
One of the final questions I had for her before being dropped off at my apartment was if she believed in God. She told me she did believe in God. She didn’t subscribe to any religion and did feel that the messages God has for us are so complex that our human brains cannot comprehend how to interpret them fully.
She also shared with me (to much my surprise) that she believed most people we share the planet with are inherently good. She believed that she came from an upbringing that was the vast minority of humans.
We all come from different walks of life. We all experience different upbringings. Most of us come from a place of love, compassion and support- I know I do. It’s amazing to be invited into the experience of another who comes from something most of us couldn’t fathom. It’s even more amazing how she overcame that experience to be the loving person I experienced during that ride.