The first time I missed the school bus I was maybe six or seven. I remember looking through the crack of the front door, seeing the paralyzing image of the bus barreling down the road in the wrong direction. Had I decided to act, maybe run out the front door waving my hands and yelling, like a six or seven year old can, I could have surely flagged it down. But instead I stood there, motionless, unable to move, unable to do anything but watch as the bus crept onward in the wrong direction. I felt helpless, ashamed that I couldn’t have done more. After all, it wasn’t just me that missed the bus because of my cowardice; it was my twin brother, too.
I don’t entirely know why this was such a big deal, but it was. I suppose it had to do with the unfamiliarity of the situation, and the panicky, suffocating feeling it induced. We were kids of routine. We woke up, showered, had breakfast, played in the street while waiting for the bus, and then got on the bus. We didn’t miss the bus. That’s not the type of kids we were. What were we to do now? Inconvenience our Mom for an hour or so and have her gladly take us? Ha! What a ridiculous and rational thought.
With the bus no longer visible I walked outside (atta boy, Devon!), my mind clouded, still in disbelief as to what just happened. This was it. This was where the world stopped spinning and tomorrow never came because that’s how things work at six or seven. Game over, Devon. You blew it. But then something happened.
I like to think it was a sound. The distant rumble of an old, powerful engine. Or maybe it was an image. That familiar flash of yellow streaking through the trees. Or maybe it was some combination of both. I can’t be certain how it happened, exactly, or what I heard or saw, but I can tell you this: the bus was coming back.
Tim, our bus driver, having never before seen us miss the bus, went out of his way that morning to swing by our house one more time. He didn’t have to do that. He already surely waited longer at our stop than most other bus drivers would have. He had other kids to pick up still. He had done his job. Even so, he decided to come back, feeling as though something wasn’t right. Feeling genuinely concerned, it would seem. And because of that, my brother and I were able to hop on the bus that morning, all of our worries and feelings of apprehension completely put to rest. The world would continue to spin. At least for another day.
I’ll never forget it. But Tim, I’m sure he doesn’t remember. Because, to him, there was nothing to remember. Just another day blurred amongst the many, where he simply went out and did his job. And that’s the thing about Tim—about other people, too—that I greatly admire: how he went about his job every single day, caring, doing his best.
Tim was amazing at his job because he showed up everyday, and did it to the best of his ability. He cared about the work he was doing, and about the kids he was driving. It was easy to see. Was driving a bus full of kids his dream job? Maybe. Maybe not. But you couldn’t tell if it wasn’t, and that’s what made Tim the bus driver he was.
It’s hard to do. And maybe a littler harder when your job isn’t your “dream job”. Maybe what you’re really passionate about is what you do when you get home. And that’s great. I’m all for that. I do that. But sometimes that means the work you’re supposed to be doing at your “day job” takes a backseat. Just show up, clock in, clock out, do as little as you have to to get by, leave, and get paid. It’s the easy thing to do. I’ve been guilty of it before. I don’t like when I do it, but it’s an honest truth.
But there’s something to be said about someone who genuinely cares about the work they are doing each and every day, and the people they are doing it for—regardless of profession. It makes a difference. It makes a difference in the product you’re making or serving, and the experience of the people who are ultimately affected by it.
There’s this guy who works at the Walgreens I frequent. I don’t know his name, but every time I see him working the counter he’s exuding positivity, welcoming customers, engaging in conversations—caring; doing his best. And every time I leave after having seen him I feel better about my day. That’s the type of pride and character a person is supposed to have in their job. Something Tim had.
I haven’t seen Tim in over a decade now, but the positive impact he had on my life remains the same. He eased the transition of going to two new schools, and meeting new kids, that much easier. Seeing Tim behind the wheel every day during those years was comforting, because at the end of the day, I knew he’d always do his best to do what was best for me. But then again, that’s just what superheroes do.