Tomorrow morning, I start my 25th year of driving a school bus and my 2nd year of driving as a retired teacher. I never know the degree to which I impact the lives of my riders. It is probably negligible in most cases. After all, they are only on my bus for a fraction of their lives. Still, I will be presented with opportunities on almost a daily basis to affect lives positively.
I have two runs; one to a severely impoverished apartment complex where I pick up K-5 kiddoes, the other to take 6-8th grade boys to the middle school where I taught for decades. At the first stop, I encounter poverty that can accurately be described as scary. Many of these kids will go the whole year wearing only one or two separate outfits. They will sometimes board the bus in the dead of winter wearing only t-shirts. A couple of years ago on a 15-degree morning with howling winds, a kindergarten girl was at the bus stop with no coat of any kind. I had already figured she came from the worst possible environment since she and her clothing were frequently dirty. I told Carole about it when I got home that evening and we knew we had to get her a coat. When I gave it to her the next morning, I found out she a sister about the same age, maybe a twin. I called Carole from school and she bought an identical coat, rushed to Dallas to give it to me, and I gave it to the sister that afternoon.
But when any of my kids step onto the bus, I have no way of knowing if they slept well or were up all night listening to momma fight with her boyfriend. I don't know if they are content with life or fighting demons. I don't know if they look forward to me picking them up in the afternoon or dread the trip home because of the physical abuse that awaits them on a daily basis.
So somehow, I have to look for tiny open doors that I can step through, brief little moments where I see fear or aching. Since I certainly can't touch or hug a child in these litigious times, I almost totally limited to the words I say. Often, being a guy, I have no idea WHAT to say since I can't put myself in the role of a kindly grandmother easily. But I do believe in prayer and in the Holy Spirit. So I pray that the words will the appropriate ones and flow easily. And that I'll be gifted with eyesight keen enough to notice every opportunity. The task begins tomorrow.