There we were. Standing outside the Back Forty Beer Company Brewery in Birmingham, Alabama. Me and a few friends. We had just finished watching an NFL football game on a large screen inside, and drinking Ovaltine.
The Uber arrived. “Are you Sean?” the Uber driver asked.
“I’ve been called worse,” I said.
We all piled into the backseat of a nice SUV. It never fails to astound me how nice Uber cars are.
My personal transportation, for example, is not nice. I drive a Ford that is 24 years old. That’s old enough to have several baby Fords of its own. My automotive interior is covered in canine fur and slobber. My seats are gnarled and look like a deranged coonhound has been chewing on the upholstery.
I have a broken radio. The A/C only works on days of the week beginning with P. And there is a hula girl mounted on my dashboard named Barbara.
But our Uber driver had a nice-looking car.
Tonight, our cab driver was a young woman. College-age. She was paralyzingly sweet. She spoke with a Birmingham accent that was thick enough to spread on a biscuit. And when one of my friends almost ralphed on her floorboards, she was cool about it.
“Y’all, is he gonna be okay?” the driver asked.
“He’ll be fine,” one of us explained. “He’s Episcopalian.”
She nodded solemnly as though she understood exactly what this meant.
Our driver followed the route home on her GPS. And she took each extra turn gingerly, taking care not to jostle the fully loaded Episcopalian among us.
When we approached the railroad tracks near Avondale, we were blocked by a passing freight train. We parked at the railroad crossing, while my Episcopalian friend placed his head between his knees and began reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
And I talked to the driver.
“Do you like your job?” I asked.
“Oh, I love it. My husband works days, and I watch the babies. I work nights, driving for Uber, while he puts the kids to bed.”
The young woman leads a busy life. Blindingly busy. She is 21 years old (younger than my truck). She was raised in Magic City. She and her husband work hard for a living. Bone hard. They have two children.
She had her first child at age 18. Her newborn son was born with a chromosomal abnormality, he could not digest food. When the doctors first told her this, it was a crushing blow.
“Y’all,” she began, “we lived in the NICU. My son was practically dying the moment he was born. Doctors thought I was going to lose my baby. I was a mess.”
Doctors put her son on a feeding tube. They treated him. She and the teenage father of her son lived at UAB, surviving on vending machine food, sleeping on vinyl chairs, praying for their child. Day and night. Night and day.
“I was so scared,” she said. “All these doctors, telling me that my son, my baby, might die at any time. But, you know what? My son lived. He’s 3 years old today. My son is alive.”
Her son is not without his obstacles. He was recently diagnosed with autism. He is nonverbal. He can’t communicate.
“But I know my baby,” she says. “I have this way of communicating with him that is above words. I always know what he’s saying even though he’s saying nothing at all.”
She went on to say that she knows there will be other diagnoses in the future, due to her son’s chromosomal problems. But she tells me she knows can deal with it.
“I know my life is going to be hard. I know my son is going to have struggles, I know we might not make much money, I know hard times are coming. But I can get through them. That’s what I’ve learned about myself. I’m stronger than I think I am. So is my husband. I have faith.”
“In God?” one of us asked.
She nods. “Yes, but I also have faith in the doctors at UAB. Those men and women save lives. They made a miracle in my baby’s life. And they saved mine, too. They are good people.”
The Uber finally arrived at our house. The young woman threw her car into Park. We helped my exceedingly cheerful Episcopalian friend from the vehicle. We told our driver goodnight.
My Episcopalian friend bid farewell by saying: “The Lord be with you, darling.”
Our Uber driver smiled at us and we all knew that we were looking at a young woman who will be canonized in her own lifetime.
“Thanks, y’all,” she said.
And also with y’all.
Linda - January 17, 2023 10:05 am
Lovely story Sean
Your way of putting things is so uplifting . You spread grace and kindness in the world just by writing .
Tim - January 17, 2023 10:46 am
Y’all = U’all, which = You all, which = You & I, which = UNI, which = UNI-Verse, which = Universe, Chorus & Bridge.
Chapter & Verse. The UNI-Verse is here to “Serve”.
Y’all – that’s how Southern “Alge-Bra” works.
It works Two Serve up sum crazy memories. Sum Crazy Experiences.
Even if you are a happy, yet pissed off “E-pissed-y-paliian”-faced-football fan (because the Saints didn’t make the playoffs).
Just know, The Saints are still among us.
& that’s Uber cool.
Kim Henley Kennedy - January 17, 2023 10:59 am
I’m a cradle Episcopalian. I get it. Peace be with your Uber driver. She just might be canonized! I pray for her to have all the strength she needs plus a little more.
Dolores - January 17, 2023 11:17 am
It’s been said the Lord gives special babies to special people. See also, Providence 😉.
One day at a time little Momma, may your faithfulness endure.
Trudy - January 17, 2023 11:25 am
My 20 year old great niece just gave birth to a 2 lb. 2 oz baby boy Sunday in Tuscaloosa. God bless these little babies and their parents. The Lord be them all.
Nancy - January 17, 2023 3:20 pm
Truly, my nephew was a 2 lb 2 Oz baby born in 1979. The UAB doctors told his parents, ” A two pounder is a keeper.” Just think of the progress they have made since then.
My granddaughter is a NICU nurse in Birmingham now. Thank you, LORD, for these special people.
B A Beckett - January 17, 2023 11:37 am
And the Lord be with you also.
Fred klein - January 17, 2023 12:50 pm
Amen. Similar story here. My baby angel speaks only with his eyes. In two weeks he’ll be 50! We are truly blessed..
mccutchen52 - January 17, 2023 1:32 pm
I got no words to say this morning. The young parents must be extremely strong in their faith and in each other. May God bless them.
Judy - January 17, 2023 2:01 pm
Worked in a hospital and we got a new Yankee administrator. He called a meeting to tell us to stop calling our patients honey. Exiting the gathering I heard several honeys being said. Y’all is like that too,as Southern as sugarless cornbread and manners. From an old Episcopalian, y’all have a blessed day.
wfsuga - January 17, 2023 6:07 pm
Thanks Judy, great comment! I don’t know what happens to yankees (I never capitalize that word) when they come South. In my visits to the north I have always found them to be gracious and hospitable (if one can get over the nasal accents). But something happens to them when they cross the Mason-Dixon Line. All they do is criticize, whine, complain, and pontificate about how great things were in Trenton or Dayton. Bewildering.
Sean of the South: Uber | The Trussville Tribune - January 17, 2023 2:03 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
Anne Arthur - January 17, 2023 2:04 pm
Thanks for introducing us to a fine lady. Working with a smile while having these challenges is saintly in itself. May God continue to give her strength and fill all her needs to care for her family. A blessed young couple!
David - January 17, 2023 2:46 pm
One of the first things I want to ask God when I see Him is how He decides who gets the completely normal healthy babies and who gets the ones who are broken, sickly, and barely hanging onto life sometimes. I know He is a good Father but sometimes life just seems so unfair. Ms. Uber driver is already a saint the way I look at it. I pray that God will continue to at least give her strength to carry on and have a happy life with her family. Thanks for sharing this story Sean!
Susie - January 20, 2023 12:23 am
That’s my question too, David. “They” always say, God is good God is always good. What happens when the child or the person dies?? What do they say then?? It’s God’s will??! Give me a break!!! “They” always have some ridiculous answer and expect people to accept it, just like they BLINDLY did. Thousands of children die horrible deaths EVERY DAY all over the world; of war, of starvation, of cruelty, of abuse, of diseases…..with NO “devine intervention” whatsoever!! So…when one or two or however many people/children get over a bad bout of whatever and carry on, God gets kudos for that. People who spout out these CLICHES have never had inclinations to even ponder why they believe what they believe. They just blindly accept, as a child would. AND THESE ARE ADULTS….with a brain they don’t use.
Gale Smith - January 17, 2023 3:04 pm
My daughter suggested I might want to be an Uber driver when it first became popular. I told her we are not allowed to have Uber drivers in South Alabama. Here we are Goober drivers……
Patricia Gibson - January 17, 2023 3:08 pm
God be with this young woman and her family 🙏
sjhl7 - January 17, 2023 3:30 pm
Amen and Amen!
davidpbfeder - January 17, 2023 3:59 pm
Can you please connect us somehow to that young woman so we can make donations to help her out?
Cynthia - January 17, 2023 5:34 pm
Chris Spencer - January 17, 2023 7:51 pm
I hope yall gave her an extra large tip. Prayers for her and her family.
Linda Moon - January 17, 2023 11:01 pm
My favorite Uber driver was in Atlanta. What a trip. I know the baby’s mother/Uber driver will get through her hard times because God and doctors have once again saved my life. So my prayers now are that good doctors and God, of course, will continue to work miracles. Amen.
Cathy M - January 17, 2023 11:04 pm
My 5 yr old grandson has Downs Syndrome and spent 12 weeks in total in the nic u at UAB. I cane still remember the names and faces of many of the Drs. And nurses who treated him and walked beside us.we received incredible care and it is amazing how many lives have been touched by Children’s hospital. An Episcopal priest baptized him as we stood in a circle with his parents and other set of grandparents. Did not know which way it was going but God had a plan . This young mother driving Uber is the essence of courage and bravery. May God bless her and her family. By the way, tommorrow is my David’s fifth birthday. Happy birthday to the boy who changed our lives in so many ways and thanks to all the folks at Children’s hospital❤️🙏🏻😇
Bkr - January 17, 2023 11:57 pm
Pam K - January 18, 2023 3:50 am
UAB is phenomenal. My husband had a kidney transplant there many years ago. I know B’ham like back o’ my hand. Great city with great docs. Thanks for your endearing writings. See ya in March in Nashville.
Renee Welton - February 5, 2023 3:08 am