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Guest Column: With the Start of School, Everyone Can Make a Difference

It seems like it was only yesterday, but nearly 35 years ago when I was a junior high student in Montpelier, Ohio, my school bus driver taught me one of the most valuable life-lessons I ever learned about compassion and using our gifts to help others.

There was a girl who rode our bus, who took special education classes and walked and talked a little differently than most kids. But I remember she was always smiling and never complained. Life on a school bus can be hard for a kid.  Everybody gets picked on from time to time, and kids can be pretty tough on other kids. But the bus ride was a lot tougher for this girl than it was for most of us…until the day our bus driver Mr. D stepped in.

As the bus pulled up in front of her house, she was having a little trouble collecting her lunch pail and books. As she struggled down that long bus aisle there was an older kid, who was quick-witted and kind of tough, who followed her mockingly and offered some very demeaning comments, drawing laughs from his audience. As she stepped off the bus you could see she was in tears.

Now, Mr. D was a deacon at our church and a very kind man. But when that bus door closed and he threw it into park, he gave that kid and our whole bus a talking-to that I’ll never forget. To this day I can’t remember a word he said, but the redness of his face and the force of his voice were unforgettable. The words are a blur but the message was clear: How dare you do something so cruel.

All these years later, whenever I see something happen that reminds me of this experience, I feel the need to step in and stand up. I learned that when you are the tough guy, the talented one or the one with all the power, those gifts should be used not to hurt people, but to help them.

So, as we start school, remember this important lesson that came from my school bus driver. All of us who come in contact with children can teach them some very, very important lessons…and we should. Thanks, Mr. D.

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