‘All I try to do is listen’ - Meet the taxi chaplain who is helping drivers in tough times
- Credit: Archant
The first question a taxi driver is usually asked is 'been busy tonight?'
That's normally followed by 'what time are you on until?'
But despite interacting with the public on a daily basis, being a cabbie can be a lonely job and they are rarely asked how they are feeling.
Now a 74-year-old part-time taxi driver has set up a chaplaincy service for fellow colleagues to talk through their problems.
It could be as simple as having a bad weekend of takings, or as serious as a breakdown of their marriage.
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Whatever the issue, taxi chaplain Mike Clarke from Gorleston is there to help.
Having already cured a driver's bad back and saved a man's marriage, Mr Clarke is ready to help transform yet more cabbies' lives.
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His secret? To listen and pray.
'Working as a taxi driver can be very stressful because a lot of drivers are self-employed, meaning if they do not have much business they cannot pay their bills,' Mr Clarke said.
'A lot of them have to work really unsociable hours and do not get to spend as much time with their family as they would like to.
'All I try to do is listen to their problems and help them out in any way I can.
'For some of them I will say a little prayer, and for others I will recommend going to church or even suggest counselling.
'Every case is different but whatever the problem is, I will give them my time.'
Having retired from being a gardener five years ago, Mr Clarke became a part-time cabbie and started working for Great Yarmouth-based taxi firm Compass.
Regular conversations with drivers on the rank inspired the 74-year-old to launch his taxi chaplaincy service.
He realised the nature of the job meant drivers often bottled up their emotions and rarely had anyone they could reach out to in order to share their issues with.
He said: 'Just talking can have a massive effect on someone's mental health.I am simply there to offer a service and if it benefits people, then that is great. God is the one who is doing all the work.'
Mr Clarke has been a Christian all of his life and attends church every Sunday. He claims his chaplaincy work has already saved one lucky man's marriage.
'A driver came to see me and he was sobbing,' he said. 'I asked him what was up and he told me his wife had left him.
'I listened to how devastated he was and said to him I would have a little prayer for him.
'The following week I bumped into him, and he told me his wife had called him to have a chat.
'They got back together and are now in a happy marriage. It was great to see.'
Salvaging a couple's marriage is not the only success Mr Clarke has enjoyed. He also claims to have cured a colleague's bad back, which had kept him out of the driving seat for months.
A week after praying for his friend, he was back in a cab earning a living for his family.
Despite transforming a number of people's lives, the Gorleston man said he cannot take credit for any of it.
'I do not have any power. I am just there for people to talk to,' he said. 'God is the one who makes the real difference and because of that I do not deserve praise for what I do.'
For those who are not religious, Mr Clarke will just happily chat away to his clients without any spiritual intervention.
The 74-year-old guessed he helps about five people a week.
This includes offering support on taxi ranks, hosting meet-ups in churches or holding a more casual sit-down chat at a cafe.
Compass boss Andy Molloy, described Mr Clarke's work as brilliant.
'I think it is a great idea,' he said. 'Being a taxi driver can be very lonely and sometimes we just need someone we can let off some steam to.'
For more information call Mike on 07810 124064.
Alternatively email him at email@example.com