This time of the year, kids are returning to school. And where I live that means one thing: big yellow school buses everywhere! Whenever I’m driving and I get behind a school bus, I experience several emotions. The first emotion is frustration—especially if I’m running late. “Darn it!” I say to myself when I spot the bus ahead of me. For I know what the next several miles are going to be: Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. If the bus eventually turns down a side road, I immediately breathe a sigh of relief and hurry on my way.
The second emotion is wonder. I wonder how many school buses there are. (In the U.S. there are about 468,000 school buses.) I wonder how many kids ride the school bus every day. (Over 28.8 million kids in the U.S. alone which is about half of the U.S. student population.) I wonder what the first school buses looked like. (The first school buses were called “kid hacks.” They were horse drawn wagons with benches on each side. The kids entered and exited the “bus” through the rear so as not to startle the horses.) And I wonder why school buses in this country and Canada are painted “school bus yellow.” (Because the color yellow is the most easily visible color at dawn and dusk, times when many kids are going to and from school especially in winter.)
The third emotion I experience when I get behind a school bus is this: gratitude. Immense gratitude. I am grateful that these kids are going to school in the first place and getting an education, for I know how vital and valuable a good education is. I am also grateful that society shows its
appreciation for children by surrounding their travel to and from school with all kinds of safety factors: the bright yellow color; flashing amber and red lights; traffic laws regarding stopping for school buses loading and unloading children; emergency exits in the rear, the windows, and the roof of the bus; and drivers who are required to meet strict standards to drive a school bus.
I am grateful too for the demonstrations of love and affection I often witness as I watch the kids getting on the school bus. The bus stops at every driveway where there is a child. And these days an adult is always with the child. In my day (the good old days), we consolidated our school bus stops in our semi-rural area. Sometimes we had to walk several houses down the road to get to the designated bus stop. And no adults were ever with us. I guess times were
different back then. Sometimes I see parents hugging their children before they board the bus. That’s a visible sign that these parents are entrusting their “treasure” to their educational system, a system which includes not only school buses, but also school buildings, teachers, administrators, and staffs. (As a teacher, I was humbled at times when I realized that the parents were entrusting to me their most valuable possession, their child.)
The fourth emotion I feel when I get behind a school bus is nostalgia. After all, I rode a yellow school bus the first eight years of my education. I enjoyed riding the bus. There was a camaraderie among the riders. I remember in third grade, my little girlfriends envying me because I rode the same bus as Danny Jack, the cutest boy in our class. To this day I can recall some of my bus drivers’ names: Mr. Somrack, Mr. Gus, Mrs. Rowls, and Mr. Todd. One of my happiest memories riding the bus is this: on the last day of school, Mr. Gus drove our school bus to G & L’s Ice Cream Stand and treated us all to ice-cream cones. Though Mr. Gus and my elementary school are both gone now, the ice cream stand (now called Foster’s) still stands. Amazing.
Suggested practice: Every time you see a school bus this week, offer a little prayer for the kids and driver. Or when passing a school, pray for the kids and their teachers.
The song I chose for today is “Joy in the Journey” by Michael Card. The lowly school bus reminds us that life is, indeed, a journey. Though that journey can be difficult at times, it is also filled with joys along the way—like wonder, freedom, and love. And we believe: Jesus, the Light, walks with us every step of the way.
How did you get to and from school as a child? If you rode a school bus, do you have any memories you’d like to share with us?
Do any words or phrases in the song speak to you today?