“Thanks, man. I’ll definitely include a tip,” the passenger promised as he stepped out of the car and set off for the shopping mall. He was soon lost in the mad swirl of other late-night shoppers.

Khalid merely nodded and smiled, knowing that more than half of his clients usually forgot to keep their promise as soon as they had stepped out of his hired car. He didn’t hold it against any of them; he knew what a fast-paced world we lived in.

His phone pinged. It was another passenger, this one a mere three minutes away from his current location. He quickly accepted the booking; at this time of the year, competition was brutal.

Khalid had been driving as an Uber driver for nearly a year now, having found that it was the best means for him to survive in this foreign country. He was grateful to be able to manage financially on what the rides brought in for him. The year had been touch-and-go though. Fortunately, he hadn’t been doing too badly this month, but he was still behind with his rent.

“Listen, raghead,” his landlord had told him that morning, using the derogatory label he often flung at Khalid, a refugee from Sudan. “If tonight you don’t pay the full rent money you owe me, expect to find your crap on the street tomorrow morning. I give you till ten tonight, you hear?”

Khalid had remained silent, knowing that it would be useless to appeal to the man’s sympathy, as he had none for “filthy job-stealing foreigners”, another of his favourite labels. Khalid had resolved to get as many fares as he could today to make the payment. He couldn’t afford to lose the small, cramped apartment.

The client was a waif-like lady waiting outside Woolworths; she had a number of shopping bags surrounding her. Khalid hurriedly exited the car to load the bags into the back.

“Thank you so much,” the woman beamed, clearly relieved for the help. “Every year I tell myself I won’t leave things to the last minute,” she continued as she got into the passenger seat, “but inevitably, I end up doing exactly that.”

“It’s normal, isn’t it?” Khalid said, instantly liking the woman’s friendly nature.

Laughing merrily, the woman said, “I doubt it’s normal, but I suppose it’s usual at this time of the year.”

“True,” Khalid agreed. “It never ceases to surprise me how frantic people become at a time when they should have peace in their hearts.”

“Absolutely true! We are so caught up in consumerism that we lose total sight of the real significance of this season. But I suppose it’s simply part and parcel of our flawed human nature. You don’t celebrate this event, do you?”

“No, I’m a Muslim, but we love and respect Jesus. He’s a prophet in my religion, too.”

“That’s wonderful to know that you also love Him.”

The woman kept up a light conversation with Khalid until they reached her destination, a small cottage in a suburb close to the city. Before leaving, she added a tip on the phone app.

“Thank you very much, ma’am,” Khalid said in genuine gratitude. The woman waved away his thanks.

Khalid helped carry her bags to the front door, bid her a good night and got back into his car. He had hardly gone a few metres from her home when he noticed the small brown envelope on the passenger seat.

“Oh, no. She’s dropped something,” Khalid said aloud before turning his car around to go back to the woman’s house. She opened the door after his first knock, as if she had been expecting somebody.

When she saw Khalid, she exclaimed, “You’ve found it then?”

Khalid extended the envelope to her. “Yes, I knew it must be yours. I didn’t open it,” he hastened to add.

“But it’s not mine,” the woman said, confusing Khalid. “It’s yours.”

“No, ma’am. It’s definitely not mine,” Khalid stammered.

“It is, young man. It’s an annual tradition of mine, to gift somebody worthy on this holy night with such a gift. And I have a feeling there’s none worthier right now than you. Please, keep it.”

Khalid was flummoxed. “But why me? I’m nobody special.”

“Oh, but you are. We are all special in our own way, and tonight I’m blessing you with this gift. I’m not taking it back; if you don’t want to accept it, pass it on to somebody else.”

“But I’m not a Christian, ma’am.”

“So what? What kind of Christian would I be if I extended charity only to those of my own faith?”

“God bless you,” Khalid managed to say over the lump in his throat.

“God has blessed me, and that’s exactly why I share this blessing each year at this time with some deserving stranger. Good night,” she said and closed the door of her brightly lit home from which the peaceful sounds of a hymn flowed through the open windows.

Khalid walked back to the car like one dazed, expecting the other shoe to drop at any moment. He couldn’t fathom why he had been chosen for such an unexpected gift, but then he said, “Dear God, thank You for Your favours.”

He still had no sure idea what the envelope contained, but he could feel it might be money.

Khalid arrived at his flat at nine thirty. He nearly returned to the woman’s house once he finally opened the envelope and saw how much cash it contained. It was enough to cover two months’ rent.

With tear-filled eyes, Khalid looked at the star-studded night sky, wonder bubbling up in his chest like the sweetest spring from which he had ever drunk.

“You are a miracle in and of Yourself, and only You can orchestrate the best, most miraculous plans for Your worshippers.”

With a far less burdened heart and soul, he went to see the landlord. Bliss spread across his joyous heart in continuous waves of wondrous rapture.

Image: Mourad Saadi (www.unsplash.com)