Giving a Friend a Lift

I've come to think that the #1 diagnostic indicator that you are successfully making friends across the socioeconomic spectrum is this:

Are you giving people rides?

Because if you are forming relationships across the economic spectrum you'll be giving your friends a ride.

The reason is obvious. Most middle to upper class people own cars. Others do not. Those without cars rely on public transportation. Consequently, especially in a town like mine which isn't a pedestrian-oriented city and where the public transportation is sparse, many people must rely upon friends and acquaintances for car rides. To get back home. To visit the doctor. To get to work. To go shopping. For all sorts of reasons.

It took me a while to realize this. As I spent more and more time at Freedom Fellowship, our church plant that reaches out to people across the economic spectrum, I found more and more people in my car. I was always giving rides. Now every time I go to church I look forward to taking Robert, Henry, Josh and Maria home. During the week I take Kristi to places where she needs to go. Last week I took her shopping for sandals. The week before that I took her to Walmart to return some jeans. Being blind and in a wheelchair it's tough for Kristi to take the bus. It's so much easier for her to give me a call. In my car I can get her where she needs to go.

All Kristi needed was a friend who was willing to share his or her car.

All of this has led me to the conclusion I gave above.

What's the simplest way to tell if you are forming friendships across the socioeconomic spectrum?

I think it's this:

Do you regularly have people in your car?

Friends without cars will need a ride from time to time. A lot of the time, actually.

Are you giving your friends a lift?

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12 thoughts on “Giving a Friend a Lift”

  1. Friends? But of course. The real test is not the friend but the stranger -- i.e., the hitchhiker. Here in the UK hitchhikers are now as rare as hen's teeth. Are they extinct in Texas? If not, do you give hitchhikers lifts? Or have we become so fearful -- Fear is a regnant Principality/Power -- hardwired for stranger-danger, that, hands white-knuckled on steering wheel, we shrug our shoulders and look the other way as we drive by on the other side?

  2. Asking for and accepting a ride is often as tough as offering it. Society has made those without cars something of losers in the "American Dream" (I'm speaking relative to smaller cities, towns, and rural areas.) I have a car and a number of friends without cars; I've learned it they can lose dignity when I don't let them handle their transportation needs. I'm slowly learning to navigate the layers of economics, ethnicity, and gender that are part of friendships.

  3. As a carless person, this is spot-on. I feel a tremendous amount of guilt asking my friends for rides; I've walked long distances where the buses stop short of my destination, ridden my bike on slippery roads during terrible Minnesota winters (in the dark), and spent two hours or more commuting to and from church by bus rather than asking for a ride that would get me home in fifteen minutes. To ask for a ride is to become a burden to someone.

    And since my disability is a hidden disability, there's the added pressure of having to explain myself--the specific kind of epilepsy I have, or why it comes with a driving restriction even though I don't have massive, grand mal-type seizures (not yet, anyway). I get comments like: "But my cousin has epilepsy, and she's driven a car all her life!" I don't know the legal position of said cousin, but I'm guessing her condition responds well to medication. Mine does not. Even if could drive, I could not afford the car payments, insurance or gas to make it worth the effort, so income compounds the disability problem. I am fortunate to live in a large city with a workable transit system; moving to the suburbs or to a rural area would be unthinkable and rob me of what independence I do have.

    There are few times in my life where I feel more powerless and more inconvenient than when I'm sitting in the passenger's seat of a friends car. Not that I don't cherish the conversations that take place there, but there's always that sense of intruding on someone else's time and space. It takes a while to develop trust.

  4. It is complicated. But standing hip deep in those complications is where we need to be.

    I also think that creating cultures of car sharing--like my church has--can lessen the awkwardness. Sharing should become normative.

  5. I second this. I've volunteered off and on with resettled refugees in the Twin Cities area, many of whom have never owned or driven a car themselves, and they need lots of transportation to and from appointments. It has been incredibly frustrating that I can't help them meet this very simple and very essential need. I've tried to compensate by training some folks to use the bus--I know how complicated the system it is, but also how freeing it is to be able to go somewhere, at will, without needing to ask for help.

    I do know how to cook, however, and I can say firsthand that a Thanksgiving dinner shared in your apartment with some Karen friends from Burma will teach you a few things about gratitude.

  6. There is something similar for those just hanging on to "working class respectability" - do you have a gas card, or can you top my tank up to get to work? They've got everything but what makes the car go sometimes.

  7. How do you strike the balance of helping as a friend without moving into a benefactor role or being taken advantage of?

  8. Rides matter so much.

    Before we finally found an antidepressant that worked, the best time for me emotionally was when things lined up so that a friend could give me a ride twice a week rather than me taking a bus. It wasn't just getting to the destination faster and with a lot less anxiety, it was also just the time spent with a friend rather than surrounded by strangers. The vast majority of the times I was happy in that period of my life were a result of her giving me rides.

    Also, once I was carrying groceries home, it's only two miles but with a full backpack and multiple bags in hand it feels like eternity, and the sky opened up when I'd barely even started home. Pretty soon I was soaking wet, and I hadn't brought a waterproof coat. A stranger stopped and gave me a ride home, she said that God told her to do it. Don't care if it was true or not, it was literally an answer to a prayer I'd made.

    If I know I can get a ride home from shopping in advance then that means I can actually by ice cream. Wondrous, wondrous, ice cream.

    Rides: they are much appreciated.

  9. My only objection to this would be to the implication that "forming relationships across the economic spectrum" is something only rich people do. If you don't give people rides, it isn't necessarily because you aren't forming relationships across the economic spectrum. It might just be because you can't afford a car. It might be because you're usually the one ASKING for the rides. Relationships are not something rich people form, with poor people relegated to the role of objects for relationships to be formed with.

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