You never know when you're going to meet someone who will change your life. It could be a classmate from school, the woman sitting next to you on the subway, or that stranger across the bar. For one man in Los Angeles, California, it was his Lyft driver, Lupe.
Matthew Stevens is a 28-year-old assistant clothing buyer living in West Hollywood. After coping with some relationship trouble one night in early August, the young man decided to meet a friend out for a drink to take his mind off of things.
Figuring the night would most likely involve champagne, Steven called a Lyft to take him there. Not in the mood for conversation, Stevens originally planned to slink into the backseat, look down at his phone, and have a few minutes of alone time before reaching the bar.
But that thought quickly changed when a big, yellow pick-up truck arrived outside of his apartment. Realizing he would have to climb over the front seat to get to the back, Stevens begrudgingly sat up front. His driver, Lupe, immediately started up a conversation, eventually leading to an explanation of Stevens's string of bad dates. Trying to veer the conversation away from his personal life, he asked Lupe if she was dating anyone.
Image source: GoFundMe, Matthew Stevens
To Stevens's surprise, Lupe admitted she hadn't been on a date in 15 years. 15 YEARS.
Shocked, Stevens pressed her further. "Fifteen years ago is when I had my son," Lupe explained. "He is autistic, so I really haven't had the time."
Having a half brother who is autistic as well, Stevens continued the conversation, learning that Lupe has been a single mom for her son's entire life and works nights driving, so she can spend her days with her son.
Then, she revealed something that brought Stevens to tears: she was also recently diagnosed with cancer.
Lupe has dedicated her life to teaching her son all that she can, so that he can someday be prepared to function without her.
"She spoke with such pride about his To-Do lists," Stevens recalled of their car conversation. "About how he is able to prepare his own meals and do his own laundry."
And in that moment, something inside Stevens snapped:
"I'm complaining about some boy who doesn't care about me and isn't going to matter in my life a month from now, and she spends her life taking care of her son despite the problems she has," Stevens told PEOPLE. "It was a reality check for me."
Leaving the car, full of emotion, Stevens handed Lupe the $70 he had in his wallet and assured her that "her positivity is contagious, and it makes all the difference." But Lupe and Stevens's story did not end there.
"I was unable to forget about her," Stevens told Babble. Not able to get the inspiring single mother out of his head, Stevens took action.
"One day I decided to pray, which I never do," said Stevens, recalling the moment he knew he wanted to help.
"I asked God why I kept finding myself with men who do not appreciate me, who disregard me ... and I heard a voice say to me that I'm not going to be able to receive love until I am able to give love. In that moment I knew what I was supposed to do."
Stevens set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Lupe. In an emotional note on his profile page, Stevens explained that he wanted to raise $10K in 30 days for her to use on cancer treatments, her son's college tuition, or even just to relax and enjoy life with her kid.
He raised $13K in six weeks.
Image source: Matthew Stevens
Stevens told Babble that he was inspired to help because of her positivity and optimism.
"Lupe has every reason to be an unhappy, miserable person," he admitted. "But hearing her struggles and how optimistic she was that she could handle it and that this was all happening for a reason was inspiring."
Their story took an unexpected turn, however, when it came time to deliver the check to Lupe. In the midst of Stevens's surprise, he discovered that she had developed a tumor in her brain and a clot in her lung.
"When I started raising the money, the thought of her health worsening never crossed my mind," Stevens told Babble. "But this definitely gave her more will to fight."
In the end, that short Lyft ride gave Stevens a new perspective on life. Living in Beverly Hills, Stevens explains that he often hears people complain about seemingly frivolous topics, but most of the time our "problems" are not real problems.
Stevens describes himself as being in a "self-developmental" stage of his life. Trying to reform and figure out what kind of person he truly wants to be, Stevens frequents seminars and has read multiple self-help books. In a way, he needed Lupe just as much as she may have needed him.
It makes you wonder if people are brought into our lives for a reason. It's a truly remarkable thing that these two individuals crossed paths and formed such an important connection. If Stevens had decided to stay in, if he had canceled the Lyft when he saw that it was a pick-up truck, if Lupe had picked up another call, we wouldn't be reading about this beautiful story.
"She changed my life," Stevens said simply. And Matthew, I think that goes both ways.
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