My chic bag in tow, I smiled at the cab driver as he lifted my standard business traveler suitcase (black, wheels, fits perfectly into the overhead bin) into the trunk. It was my second week on the project; my first project with my firm. As a young Muslim woman many people were surprised I worked for a large firm; my business field would forever tie me to all the issues that face a person of faith who is determined to learn and succeed in corporate America.
As I slid into the back seat I whipped out my phone and told the driver the address. Unexpectedly I heard a soft reply, "No problem sister".
We drove along 404 and I asked the Moroccan brother about the community, the MSA and how he came to Raleigh. He was a chef who came to America seeking a better life. An expert in French cuisine he quickly got a job at a trendy French restaurant off of DuPont Circle in Washington, DC. But, as he put it "There was no barakah (good / benefit / reward) sister, no barakah in the money."
One day he told his boss he couldn't do it anymore; he wouldn't cook with alcohol or serve pork. Shortly thereafter he moved to Raleigh to take a job as a cab driver his brother helped him find.
"There are days sister, days where I don't know how I will pay my bills. Sometimes the money I make isn't enough to cover the cost of gas." Somehow he stretched the money to pay his bills; he found money to send to his daughter at school and his family back home. "We are happy sister, I am happy. Now, now there is barakah".
As he took out my bag from the trunk, he handed me his card. If I ever needed anything, he said, simply let him know. I watched the French-Chef-turned-cab-driver drive off, remembering his words. No matter what the situation, your field, your challenges, you always have a choice.
Last month I celebrated my one year anniversary with my firm. Like many Muslims I've struggled to define and maintain my boundaries. But I've always remembered that cab driver and the power of his simple words: You always have a choice.