In 2011, I had the distinct honor of being a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show – the Surprise Spectacular. This episode was a tribute to Oprah just before she left her television network, and I was highlighted for my innovative teaching and classroom use of her interviews (for the whole background story, visit my Facebook Notes page, or check out the video at my About Carrie page).
We saw a multitude of celebrities there to honor Oprah for her years of service. Among them were Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Queen Latifah, Madonna, Will and Jada Smith, Jerry Seinfeld, Aretha Franklin, Simon Cowell, Usher, Beyonce, Rascal Flatts, Halle Berry, Maya Angelou, Stevie Wonder, Jaime Foxx, Katie Holmes, Patti LaBelle, Josh Groban, and more. My favorite was the legendary basketball superstar Michael Jordan. There were so many “important” people present – snapping photos and grappling to be a part of the legacy Oprah was leaving behind.
The show was to be split into two episodes, so we were filming all day as the producers worked to make everything perfect – a final tribute to a television icon (the details of the show production can be found here).
At the end of the day, Brady and I dragged ourselves back to the hotel, tired but happy. It happened to be our anniversary, and we were able to celebrate our love on Oprah’s dime (thanks, Oprah!).
But the perfect moment wasn’t seeing my basketball hero or sitting next to Oprah (and her hand getting stuck in my hair). The perfect moment wasn’t thousands of people singing hymns together with Usher or listening to Maya Angelou recite a commissioned poem. Those moments were all wonderful, but they weren’t the moments that I will remember most.
When it was time to go home, Brady drove the truck back to Oklahoma and I was going to fly (so I could do the teacher thing and be back in my classroom teaching the next day).
Brady snapped this picture as I was getting into the limo that would take me to the airport. Just after this picture the moment came I will never forget.
My limo driver, whose name I cannot remember, was a captive audience for this girl, who decided to ask lots of questions about the guests he’s driven from Oprah’s episodes. Apparently he had driven countless celebrities and famous people – and I wanted to hear all about it.
“They aren’t always very nice,” he told me. “I’m pretty lowly to them. They don’t usually treat me like a human being.”
He began to tell me that he used to be the CEO of a large company in Chicago. When the economy crashed, so did he – he lost his job, his money, pretty much everything. This articulate, polished man looked the part of a CEO – only this time he was driving them instead of being one.
But this next part is what blew my mind.
“I have discovered what it’s like to be the driver.”
He shared that he used to ignore people of the “lower” station – didn’t care about the janitor, the driver, the waiter. He thought of himself as better, higher, richer. But now he was discovering what it felt like, in his words, “to be ignored.”
I had just been surrounded by the “beautiful people” – the ones we admire, aspire to be like, wish to live like. Our society worships the celebrities of the world, watches reality television about them, reads magazines about them, listens to their advice about world problems and orphans.
But I was learning more from this “ignored” man than I learned from hours in the presence of the rich and famous. Not that I wanted to be more like them, because I didn’t. But our society places so much importance on them, it seems that perhaps we should be learning SOMETHING from them? And many of them have good things to say – Duck Dynasty stars and other moral superstars use their platforms for positivity, and I appreciate their attempts to promote moral living.
But I’m normal. Like that limo driver. And normal people’s stories reach me more than any reality show or celebrity blog. I was moved by his heart, his perspective, and his transparency.
So I told him about my faith. And prayed for him. And he had hope. He gave me hope. I hope to meet him someday in heaven and tell him the impact he made on me that day.
He put everything in perspective.
The way we treat one another. The way we value wealth, and things, and large homes and beautiful new cars. Not that any of those things are bad things, but that we should value one another for what’s most important – being human.
Emphasis on celebrity happens at more levels than just the rich and famous. It happens in our work places and our churches – and that limo driver reminded me that I am no better than anyone I bump (or don’t bump) shoulders with.
Jesus hung out with the outcasts of our society – and he loved them the same as everyone else. He valued them for their worth as human beings and not for what they had. In fact, I would venture to say that he saw them – not as outcasts, but as people just like the rest of us. They may have had more scars, but they were desperate to know him – and that’s all that mattered.
That day in the limo was pivotal for me – that God would orchestrate such an elaborate plan for me to meet a man who would change my perspective. And I wouldn’t put it past God to do something that drastic.
He loves us that much.
And that limo driver is loved just as much as Mother Teresa, or Billy Graham, or Oprah Winfrey. He is valued just as highly.
And so am I. And I need to know that.
Carrie Wisehart, the broken girl from Omaha, Nebraska, is loved by our Almighty and powerful God. I could be rich or poor, tall or short, smart or dumb – and He would love me the same.
Thank you, anonymous limo driver, for giving me my perfect moment. I won’t ever forget you. And God won’t, either.
Please follow my blog by becoming my e-mail friend and receive my posts straight to your inbox! Click here and let’s be friends!