Category Archives: August 2020

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: Holly From Green Mountain

Next Saturday, August 22 will be one year to the day since I met a woman who changed my outlook on life. Her name was Holly, from Colorado. Her name came up earlier today in a conversation with my mother-in-law about some of the most interesting stories from my experiences driving Uber/Lyft.

Driving over the last 3 and a half years has given me so much inspiration and purpose. For those new to StreetLights, my name is Christopher Carlson. I have clinical/chronic depression. This is something I have dealt with all or most of my life but didn’t realize or understand it until a very dark rock bottom moment in December of 2017 that almost took my life. God intervened.

Since that moment of clarity I have chosen to share my experiences and my story because I know it helps others who suffer this lonely internal battle. My decision to be open and share my struggle has been validated more times than I can remember in the last few years. As a part of my own therapy but also as a sort of safe space for others, I have interacted with many incredible people through my 6,000 plus Uber/Lyft rides given. The other objective behind this blog and the stories I share is to promote kindness.

I haven’t driven Uber/Lyft since March 17th, due to Covid19. I am in the high risk pool and just can’t risk that much exposure. I have begun working full time in a position at Lowe’s which limits my exposure to the public and I really enjoy my work. But I truly miss driving and hope to someday feel safe enough to resume that inspiring activity, part-time.

As for now, like many of you, I have been anxious and angry. There are dark forces working in this world and the voices of fear and hate are very loud. Driving would often help me when I felt like I often do because it always helped restore my faith in humanity. Just a few riders is all it would take; sometimes just 1.

I don’t have that connection right now, so I thought I would look back to get some comfort and perspective. Holly’s story is a reminder that we can’t let the anger and fear of today overwhelm us and dictate our lives. I needed to regain that perspective. Holly has a simple life mantra. “Life is love. Anything else is a waste of time.” Here is her story…

StreetLights On a Saturday Night

People Profiles, Driving Away Depression

Holly From Green Mountain

I got the request in Grand Prairie. Uber XL. Thinking it would be a group of people and at 245am, most likely drunk and rowdy, I prepared myself for the worst. Shortly after I started working my way to the pickup address, I received a text from”H,” my rider. “Please come to the front office. I am in a wheelchair.” I was relieved it wasn’t a group of late night drinkers.

When I arrived at the semi-circle drive in front of the retirement home, two women were waving at me, smiling. Holly was my rider. She was in the wheelchair. Her 92 year old mother was standing with a walker. Holly had several bags and a small dog. I began to load the car as she said goodbye to her mother. There was some laughter mixed in with some emotion as I helped Holly into the front seat and loaded her wheel chair.
As they made their final goodbyes I began to realize this was more than just, until the next time. Once the door was shut, Holly began fumbling for the window button. I hit mine as we slowly started to move. She waved to her mother again calling out to her. I stopped. But Holly said no, let’s go, and she burst into tears.

Holly regained her composure and apologized saying “It’s just tough. I am saying goodbye to my mother for the last time. She has congestive heart failure. In the morning she will be moved into a full care facility.”

Holly comes from a big family. She has 13 brothers. Not one of them have visited their mother in these final days. Here was Holly, with serious health issues herself, bound to a wheelchair, traveled from Colorado to see her mom.

Holly returned to what seemed to be her normal disposition, cheerful and positive. She was warm and friendly, even when she spoke of tough, even tragic experiences in her life. When you look into her eyes you can see this almost childlike joy.

Holly’s mother was given something called DES when she was pregnant with Holly.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic form of the female hormone estrogen. It was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, premature labor, and related complications of pregnancy, incuding nausea. It was determined to cause cancer in the mother, the child and could even reach as far as a grandchild genetically. Holly is known as a DES daughter because she, like many women born from exposure, developed cancer or other significant health issues.

Holly fought cancer twice. The first time she was only 9. And then again, in her late 20s. She beat it both times. But the genetic abnormality remained.

Holly and Bill married young. Bill is a disabled Vietnam War Veteran. They had a baby boy. He had a rocky start and passed away at 15 months old.

Eventually they tried again and she gave birth to a little girl. Her daughter was healthy. She grew up, got married and began having kids of her own. That’s when the cancer finally showed up. Holly’s daughter had inoperable, terminal brain cancer. Holly said after the news, her daughter freaked out, dropped everything and left. She left her 3 children and her husband. Holly never heard from her again.

Now another predicament. By this time, Holly and Bill had significant health issues and couldn’t take on the kids. Her daughter’s husband was in a car accident and suffered traumatic brain damage. So he couldn’t be a father anymore. They were forced to turn to the state. All 3 children were put into different foster homes.

In 1985 Holly and Bill, along with their daughter were living in Houston. There was a severe storm one day that had Holly concerned about the lightning. She called Bill on the phone and while expressing her concerns to him lightning struck the tree just outside the kitchen window. The strike went into the ground, splitting the tree, and found its way up the ground cable for the phone. And then, as Holly described it, the lights went out. She was cooked!

It took her over a year to learn to speak and walk again. That strike left her with a damaged nervous system, constant headaches, epileptic seizures, and a bone disorder that prevents calcium from being absorbed, making her bones weak and brittle. Calcium builds up on the outside of the bone. Apparently she has numerous surgeries to go in and essentially scrape it off. Holly jokes about a few other side effects, including a slightly tighter right side of her face that makes her look a bit like a pirate smiling. She said she can scratch her left shouldet and feel it in her right leg.

She underwent leg surgery not long ago where they used a cadaver bone for her right leg. It didn’t work, which is why she is curently in the wheelchair. Upon returning to Colorado, they will remove her leg below the knee. She joked about being mad at the doctors because she wanted to keep the leg, only to bury it. But they said no. I told her she should then at least ask for a core charge refund.

Holly’s little Terrier is named Christine. She is actually a service dog and lets Holly know when she is about to have a seizure.

Holly continued with her story. ” I am so grateful for little Christine, here. But I haven’t had a seizure in almost 2 years since we moved to Lakewood, Colorado and my doctor started me on CBD. My overall pain is lower. Apparently they fixed my voice too well, according to Bill because I won’t stop talking now.”

She had this childlike, innocent joy about her. All that pain. And her eyes are lit with joy and appreciation for life. She paused in her story long enough for me to ask how she copes. She smiled and said there are good days and bad days but everyday I am alive is a blessing.”

She commented on my music choice. Louis Armstrong and Elle Fitzgerald were singing a duet on my Spotify. What are some of your favorite music artists? I asked. She said she really liked John Denver.

Ohhhhh, like Rocky Mountain High?

She laughed a little and said ‘Well I like that song but it isn’t my favorite.”

What is?

“Annie’s song.” She said peacefully.

Her three grandchildren were found separate permanent homes. All three were adopted by wonderful families. Holly gets to communicate with all of them and occasionally gets to see them. They are all in Utah.

We got to Love field at 330 am. Nobody was there. But she insisted she would be fine to be dropped off. So, I unloaded her stuff onto a cart, got her situated in the wheel chair and we made our way into the terminal.

Holly you seem like such a happy person, I said. You have had a tough life.

Holly replied, “I have had a blessed life. I have been happily married for 39 years, traveled. I Live in a beautiful place by Green Mountain. Life has been good to me.”

I told her how much I appreciated her telling me her life journey. I told her I really admired her strength and resilience.

“You should visit Green Mountain. You should visit Colorado. You seem tired. It will rejuvenate you.” Holly said.

I told her now everytime I think of Colorado I will think of her….

With that pirate smile, hoppin’ around Green Mountain on one leg…

We both burst out laughing.

We hugged and said goodbye. I felt like I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. It was a strange moment as I walked away, while she sat with Christine and her luggage next to the check-in kiosk, smiling and waving me bye. She was happy. She was returning home to her steadfast companion of 39 years.

Oh Holly. You smile for me. I cry for you.

I played that song on the way home. I cried the whole way. I cried for Holly’s loss. I cried for the desperation I have felt. And, I cried for joy, because Holly reminded me that I am alive, still. She told me something else I am sure to never forget.

Life is love.

That’s it. Everything else is a waste of time.

Once again, God has given it. He sent a most interesting woman to deliver it. And, I have received it.

Grace.

#kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld #hope #peace #love #joy #StreetLights #TheKindnessClub #Grace #drivingawaydepression #Peopleprofiles

For Holly and Bill. And, for the love of my life, who continues to lift me up, Mindy.

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: The Color Of Kindness

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: The Color Of Kindness

Kindness comes in all colors. Shouldn’t freedom, equality, and opportunity come in all colors too? It has been some time, March 17th actually, since I have given any Uber/Lyft rides. I miss meeting people in those rides and hearing their unique life journeys. That experience always helped restore my faith in humanity. With all that has happened and is happening in the world, that faith in people has been challenged again. More than any issue, and we have plenty to choose from, I am focused tonight on race. One of the benefits of being an Uber/Lyft driver is the diversity of my passengers. I often felt like the United Nations on wheels.

These last few years have been especially difficult for issues of race. We have seen much hate and fear. We have seen our own president spew hateful and racist language on an almost daily basis. Worse yet, black and brown people in this country have been marginalized and disadvantaged in ways we thought were being put behind us in the story of America.

A conversation, a true national dialogue is occurring and has been long overdue. We are in a unique moment for our nation. We, ALL OF US, need to use this moment for good, for progress. White people, we MUST work harder to understand the true racial inequities in this country. That means stepping outside of our belief system, our ideology. That means listening to black and brown perspective, learning black and brown history. It means honoring both the sacrifices of black and brown Americans, but also acknowledging current plight for people of color.

We cannot help or be a part of this conversation from our own white space. I am speaking now to my white friends and family who are outraged over people who kneel before the flag or protest systemic racism and police brutality.

That flag IS a symbol for our freedom, our national identity, 50 states united, and it IS something we honor as representing all those who have given their lives to defend it, to defend us. But when that freedom isn’t the same for all Americans, then the American flag isn’t living up to its promise. That means America isn’t living up to Its promise.

We cannot fly a flag that we hold so dear, because it represents free and equal Americans, if some of those whom we expect to honor it at ballgames and events don’t feel as free and equal as we do. Black and brown people love this country every bit as much as white people. I would argue they love it more because people of color have suffered so much more for the stars and stripes since before we even declared our independence.

We cannot continue to express outrage over flag kneeling, protesting and even the rioting (which is usually as diverse in the color of the agitators as the color of our citizens) and not continue the conversation as to why.

This is where white America is failing. We cannot be a contributing part of the conversation if our first comments are to express outrage and disappointment with how people choose to stand (or kneel) and be heard because they have and continue to suffer racial injustice, racial bias, police brutality, and feel marginalized under the banner that is supposed to symbolize equal freedom, justice, and opportunity.

My conservative friends and family continue to be unapologetic about being white and Christian and flag loving Americans. OK. You are in your white space and you refuse to give it up or step out of it. But why are you so offended by the idea that others, who don’t feel they have the same American promises as you should ask for it?

Show me a flag that truly represents a free and equal America, for people of all color, and I will show you a country free of protest.

We have a chance to change that. We, our generation, I mean those of us who are here now, we can and must find solutions together to end racism, racial inequalities and the gross imbalance of opportunity in this country (which goes well beyond race).

If you want to see an end to kneeling before the flag, to protests, to people feeling they must organize under a slogan that actually says black lives matter, yelling at them in outrage or condemnation about how, where, or when they should choose to be heard is not the answer. That is just white people living in their white space with their unempathetic white ideology.

White people, it is time to change the conversation. It is time we stopped requiring all these conditions of our brothers and sisters of color before they can stand and be heard. Moreover, we need to do more than just shut up and listen. For a brief moment after George Floyd was murdered it seemed like the whole nation was focused and listening. But that didn’t last more than a split second in our time and soon the familiar cacophony of racial division overtook the conversation again.

Even that moment fell short. More than just shutting up and listening, we need to understand. We need to engage. We need to recognize that to make this country live up to the ideals and promises, the freedoms we so greatly represent in our national identity, in our symbology, and in our flag, we must acknowledge that it will require white people to change. And therein lies the true issue at hand. We have a racial problem and it is white people who caused it, perpetuate it, and continually deny it. We need to acknowledge this. This is a difficult thing to do. But it is the kind thing to do and kindness comes in all colors. So life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should come in all colors as well.

I want to add a few words to this conversation from the Christian perspective. Christ was an incredible teacher. He gave us a path to follow. But Jesus was also a very good listener. As Christians, as white Christians, it would behoove us to first listen, second acknowledge and respect our brothers and sisters of color. 3rd, only assume they love America too. Protests are the proof, not evidence to the contrary. 4th, with no caveats or criticisms, we need to ask how we can help. We need to be willing able to change our own beliefs, even just a little.

I began looking to the Bible for guidance on this. I believe I found it. Not surprisingly it all comes down to effective communication and not prejudging. Guess what, white America, we can do better. We must do better. We must be better listeners. We must find a way to get out of our own white spaces and stop first requiring others to come to us and act through our societal lense.

I found this excerpt as part of a story online about proverbs 18, written by:

Steve Watkins, Pastor

Trinity Bible Church

Felton, California

“Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” The Hebrew word that is translated opinion in the ESV is leb – which simply means, “heart”, “mind”, or “the inner person.” In other words, verse 2 of Proverbs 18 ascribes to the fool the quality of neglecting and despising objective truth in favor of believing what he wants to believe. His opinion may or (most likely) may not be based on any kind of fact or evidence. More likely, the fool’s “opinion” is a conclusion that is convenient to his own inner, self-serving feelings and desires.”

Let us not make conclusions driven by our own selfish, prideful, and myopic sense of what we believe we deserve. Otherwise we won’t see past our own “needs” and “rights” to even imagine what others might be going through. How hurtful our selfish, prideful foolishness can be.

“Verse 13 of Proverbs 18 reinforces this wisdom and points to the damage it causes, saying, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”  Jesus surely taught us, in the Sermon on the Mount, that the wisdom and Law of God’s righteousness applies not only to the outside of the cup of our lives, but most importantly, to the inside. Proverbs does not only condemn as foolishness the impulsive words that come out of our mouths, but first and foremost the impulsive conclusions of mind and heart that drive those words. The folly of verbalizing an answer before hearing comes from the inner arrogance of believing a conclusion before having all the facts, which is precisely the sin that verse 2 exposes. How often we give ourselves permission to do this! How often we elevate our own inner perceptions and instincts (formed by our own sinful tendencies toward self-justification) to the level of inerrancy, and then allow ourselves to form conclusions that become the basis for accusations that have no basis in fact, reality or truth.”

We said goodbye to John Lewis this week. He has been a true Kindness Warrior throughout his life. His kind and peaceful leadership came in all colors. He has given all of us a blueprint for peace and equality, as well as our marching orders to continue improving America and the promise of freedom and equality. Contrary to popular belief, kindness can be very difficult and challenging. But that kindness is forever remembered in living color. We are in a critical moment in our country. My prayer is that love and kindness should win the day…

For John, for all of us.

Peace be with you, Kindness Warriors. Keep the conversation going.

Checkout Byron Sanders

Byron Sanders is the President and CEO of Big Thought. He says he sees more people willing to engage than ever before and knows that real change and improvement can happen if we don’t shrink away from this moment. MORE: wfaa.com/equality Subscribe to WFAA: https://bit.ly/subscribetowfaa

“This is about us reclaiming all of who we were born to be and loving each other.”