When we send our children to school, we naturally worry about their education. Who will their teacher be? What classes are they in? Will they succeed? What will they learn? Are they happy? Will they make friends? What is their day like when they are away from home? And the list goes on and on…
I don’t think that I ever gave a second thought about my children’s bus driver. And yet, much to my great pleasure, my children were fortunate to have one of the best bus drivers ever, Ben.
“Writing on the slate of a child” is one of my favorite expressions when I talk about the adults in the world, who have the privilege of working with children. Ben is one of those unanticipated authors on my children’s slate, that has had a profound and lasting impact, for which, I am very grateful.
“Ben” as he is affectionately known to everyone who meets him, has been instrumental in teaching my children (and many more) respect. He drives a bus full of fifth through eighth grade students to and from school, everyday. We have been lucky to have Ben be our bus driver for many years, beginning with my oldest who is now in high school, and now sadly ending this year as my twin boys leave the eighth grade.
How does he do it, you might ask. The school bus, as we know, can be less than an ideal experience for too many reasons to mention. And yet, we have never had a “bus issue” on Ben’s bus. Ironically, the short ride to school is an important highlight of the day.
Ben is a friendly, quiet, unassuming man, who appears to be near retirement age. I can see the bus stop from my house as it is at the end of my driveway. The first time I noticed that this bus driver was different was several years ago when I watched my boys stand back and let the girls get on the bus first. When this continued to happen day after day, I was shocked, but I soon learned that Ben simply said, “ladies before gentlemen” and that was that. Today, this simple manner, this simple sign of respect and polite behavior is ingrained in the boys. I have witnessed the boys waiting, even if one of the girls is running late, literally running down the street, she will enter the bus before they do.
Ben talks to the kids about history and sports. He greets them daily and shows a genuine interest in them as people, not just bus passengers. Once you are one of Ben’s students, you are his for good. Several times this year, we received newspaper clippings from the local paper if one of our kids accomplishments was published. I can still see my oldest daughter’s smile when she received a newspaper photo of her playing volleyball, sent home with her younger brothers. Ben told her to keep up the good work.
Ben drives to sporting events for the high school, and you better believe there is one more fan in the stands as he watches our home town teams play. It is such a treat to watch the older students come over to say hello to their former driver, a man they clearly adore and respect.
Maybe Ben’s success has something to do with his wave. No matter where you pass the bus, or if it is parked in the school lot, Ben always gives a wave. Not just a hand in the air, the kind of wave that makes you believe that he is genuinely happy to see you.
I overheard my boys talking about a “new student” who was acting up and giving Ben some grief on the bus. I asked the twins, what did Ben do? Their reply was “Nothing, as eighth graders, we told the kid to knock it off, no one messes with Ben.” Respect, genuine interest, caring, friendliness, are all attributes that are working for Ben and are translating to our children ~ you can’t ask for better.
Today, I ran into Ben at the supermarket, and as always we exchanged our pleasantries, questioned the terrible weather we are having and then as he headed down another aisle he turned and said,”you have some mighty fine boys”. I blurted back, “well, you are a mighty fine bus driver”. And then, realizing that I may be sounding ridiculous, I added, “I don’t know how you do it.” To this Ben replied, “Ahh, it’s nothing, I really like the kids.” “I know, I said, that is definitely the key, and you know what, they really like you, too.”
And so it goes, we cannot script every message that gets written on children’s slates and some messages I’m sure we would erase if we could. It makes it all the more special when a great person shows up in our children’s lives and writes something you hope never washes away.
Today I want to thank my children’s school bus driver, Ben. I wish there was a prize, or an award, but I’m sure it wouldn’t matter at all to Ben. I’m just glad and grateful that we have had the best bus driver ever.