The Bus Driver I Bruised (An Easter Story)

The first day of kindergarten I wanted to walk to the bus stop all by myself, so I put my backpack on, held my strawberry shortcake lunchbox in one hand, and told my parents to stay home. I walked a long way up our dirt road, past the gardens, past a neighbor’s house with a barking dog and up a hill to the spot where I was to wait for the bus. I didn’t know Papa and Mama were following behind, being careful to stay out of sight. The bus stopped and I climbed on board all by myself, feeling every ounce independent and brave.

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But it was toward the end of October that we all moved, except for Papa who stayed behind. I remember the kitchen in our new home with the cupboards that I couldn’t reach. Once, I stood next to the counter, my head just about its height, while Mama and Papa looked down at me sadly and said, “Lara, we need to talk with you.” Their faces looked serious as they told me that they were getting a divorce. I remember I didn’t know why they looked so sad.

At our new house, I was supposed to wait for the bus just at the end of our short driveway but for some reason I would wake up with knots in my stomach. I just knew I couldn’t go to school. I told Mama that I didn’t feel good, day after day. Becoming a single mother, she had gone back to work and my grandmother was living with us to help out. I’m sure Grammie B noticed that after the bus left I would be all better and would spend the rest of the day playing with my little sister. Papa took me to the doctor once, and the tall, perceptive man diagnosed me with ‘anti-school-itis’ and said that I should be home for the rest of that day but to get on the bus in the morning.

But just like every day, I woke up and the thought of school made my stomach twist into knots. Once, I pretended to wait for the bus, and Grammie B didn’t notice that I ran around and hid in the pine trees behind our house. The bus came and left and I gave her quite a shock when I showed up hungry for a snack an hour or so later. She called my other grandmother to come and take me to school, because she said she didn’t have the heart to do it. So, Grammy J drove down one hill and up another, loaded me in her car and took me to school. Years and years later she would still talk about how she had to drag me inside and leave me there and of how afterwards she sat in her car and cried. She was sure to always remind me that Grammie B made her be the bad one. I think she was always relieved to see my smile when she told the story.

In a small town, with family and friends all around, people help each other out. My bus driver was named Bob. I think he might have owned a garage in town and he would pick me up and drop me off each school day. At least, he would try to pick me up. There were days that I just would refuse to go to school. He would get off the bus, kneel down and talk with me. He was kind and would smile and try to encourage me that school wasn’t such a bad place to be and assure me that he’d be bringing me home again that afternoon. But I wouldn’t go. One morning he and my mother had a talk in low voices while we all stood at the end of the driveway. He came over and picked me up to put me on the bus. I turned into a little wild beast, kicking him and hitting him. But, somehow, he got me on the bus and plopped me in a seat.  I don’t remember how many times this happened and he was kicked and hit and scratched putting me on his bus. I know that every time I lost the battle to stay home, I cried the whole way to school. Usually once I got there I ended up having a good day and rode home with a smile on my face. I would say, “thank you,” to Bob as I was getting off at home, as my mother had taught me it was important to be polite, but I would be ready to fight him all over again in the morning.

One year, after Grammie B started going to Florida for the winters, I would often get on and off the bus at Grammy J’s house.  I would be the last one to be dropped off during those times. Bob was used to just driving past my grandmother’s road because usually he didn’t have to go that way. After dropping off the last kid, his mind was already mulling over the things he’d do when he got home. Over and over again he almost forgot to make the turn. I’d have to holler down the aisle, “Bob!! I need to go to my Grammy’s house!” He’d put on the brakes fast and sometimes have to back up. He’d say, “Whoa! I was almost going to take you home with me today!” One day, after almost being forgotten again, I stopped and said more than ‘thank you’ to Bob. “Bob, you keep forgetting me. Next time you forget, I’m not going to say anything. So you better remember.” And then, I said “thank you”, and hopped off the bus. I’m pretty sure it was the next day that I rode all the way home with Bob. He got the bus all parked neatly in his driveway and started to get off when I spoke up. “Bob! I’m still here.” He looked pretty surprised, and laughed, and backed the bus back out of his driveway. Never once did he forget the turn at my grandmother’s road after that!

I don’t remember when Bob stopped being my bus driver. I had almost forgotten all about him until one Easter Sunday, many years later, when I went to church with my grandmother. Bob came over to greet me and he pretended to shy away like I was going to hurt him as he said, “I’ve still got bruises from you!” He still had the kind smile and we laughed about my antics as a little kid.

I didn’t go to church often but both my grandmother and older sister went to the same church as Bob. When I was a young teenager, my older sister (who had grown up and gotten married) would sometimes pick me up and bring me to this church’s youth group. I always felt a little out of place, as I didn’t know many of the kids there or what all of this Christianity stuff was really all about.

But, one night, Bob and his wife Nancy were leading the lesson. I don’t remember anything about what passage of the Bible he was teaching from, or what we were supposed to be learning. But, I’m pretty sure he paused at one point and wrote his telephone number on the blackboard. I remember he looked around the room, at some rowdy teenagers, including this one that long ago had left him with scratches and bruises, and told us that he loved every one of us. He said that he wanted us to know that we could call him anytime of the day or night. If we ever needed anything, whether it was a friend to talk with or we were in some type of trouble, he would do his best to help. He looked over at his wife, smiled, and said, “Nancy and I don’t mind if the phone rings at 2AM… you just call if you need us.”

I have never forgotten that, though up until a couple of weeks ago, it had been a long time since I’d thought of my old bus driver.

One Sunday, I told the story of ‘when Mrs. Mather was a little kid and didn’t want to go to school’ to a group of shocked five, six and seven year olds in junior church. I held the Bible my grandmother gave me when I was seven and still struggling with anxiety, and we went through Psalm 23, which was a passage she had me memorize all those years ago.

When I got home from church that day, I was still thinking about Bob. I was pretty sure I’d heard that he had passed away a decade or so ago. I typed in his and his wife’s names and did a quick internet search to see if I could find out anything more about him as everything I’ve written here is all that I remember.

I saw that his widow, Nancy Hannington, had written the ‘Morrill town news’ segment in the local paper. This is part of her article printed in the Republican Journal, August 6, 2010:

“I am sure many of you recognize at least the first few bars of “Just as I Am” from hearing it through the Billy Graham Crusades. Charlotte Elliot from Brighton, England was completely embittered over her broken health. Through a conversation with a Swiss minister in 1822 she finally asked, “If I wanted to share the peace and joy you possess, what would I do?” The pastor answered, “You would give yourself to God just as you are.” Charlotte did come to Him, just as she was. Years later, she wrote a poem for a fundraising project that was printed and sold across England. That poem was set to music and has become the most famous invitational hymn in history. Although never in good health, she lived to be 82 years old. Loved ones sifting through papers after her death found over 1,000 letters from people expressing their gratitude for the way this hymn had touched their lives. By the way, this was my Bob’s favorite hymn.

Excerpts from the above paragraph were from “Then Sings My Soul” by Robert J. Morgan.”

I love that this is what I found out about Bob.

Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me…

He gave himself to God, just as he was. He got out of his bus to help a little girl that was hurting and scared, and he got kicked and hit and beaten with as much violence as a five or six year old girl is capable of handing out. But he took my fury to help me get to the place I needed to be. And even years later, he was still holding out an offer of grace, and love, and help.

I’m so thankful for all the ‘Bobs’ in my life. I come to them just as I am. On the hard days, they let me be hurt or messed up or angry or scared. At times they’ve even taken some emotional blows. It’s those people who have seen my worst, and showed me grace, that get my phone calls when my world is falling apart. They hear my confessions and my anxieties and they remind me again and again of grace.

They point me to the One that didn’t just suffer some kicks and scratches, but that took everything I have to be ashamed of or broken by and suffered to a degree that I will never fully understand.

Long ago, one Easter Sunday, I stood in a little church in Maine, and a man came up and reminded me that I had bruised him. This year, I’ll stand in another little church. I’ll look at all the ‘Bob’s’ around me, singing and clinging to grace, and I’ll remember the Savior that I bruised and wanted to hide from for so long. I’ll remember how he left Heaven to make a way for me to be brought Home. Day and night, He bids me to come, and call on Him. Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come!

11 thoughts on “The Bus Driver I Bruised (An Easter Story)

  1. Charlotte Elliot’s

    Just As I Am

    Just as I am, without one plea,
    But that Thy blood was shed for me,
    And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    Just as I am, and waiting not
    To rid my soul of one dark blot,
    To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    Just as I am, though tossed about
    With many a conflict, many a doubt,
    Fightings and fears within, without,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
    Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
    Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
    Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
    Because Thy promise I believe,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    Just as I am, Thy love unknown
    Hath broken every barrier down;
    Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    Just as I am, of that free love
    The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
    Here for a season, then above,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

  2. Thank you for sharing this beautiful and meaningful Easter post with us, Lara.

    I am amazed at all the memories of Bob that have re-surfaced all these years later. One never knows the impact one will have upon the life of a child. I recall how Bob comforted me one of those mornings after he had to assist me in getting you on the bus. I was tearful as I saw him blocking the pathway down the aisle of the bus to prevent you from darting back out the door. I was also embarrassed that MY CHILD had such uncontrollable behavior. Bob was so perceptive and wise, and he told me , ” Lara is going to grow up to be a very special and kind person.” He was so right!
    Love, Mom

    • Oh, Mom… now that I’m older and can appreciate your perspective I’m so sorry!!! haha What a time! But how beautiful that Bob spoke those kind words.. I bet he prayed for me too! 🙂

  3. Happy, proud and selfishly sad tears. Thank you for such a wonderful story about my dad! He “adopted” many children over the years. We will join him one day and can enjoy these memories of yours once again with him! Thank you

    • Thank you… and thank you so much for sharing your dad with so many others that benefited from his love and kindness! Just these small little moments when he stepped into my own life are enough to know that you must miss him so very much. What a special person. I also so look forward to that day when we’ll all be *home*.

  4. What a nice surprise to read Lara’s article today. We certainly never know how living our life for Christ will affect others. Most of us wouldn’t have taken the time to write their inner thoughts down on paper about how someone else had influenced their life. Thank you for those kind words about Bob.

  5. A grandfather I loved as a child whom I never got to meet as a man. A man I’ll miss all the days of my life.

    • Thank you so much for sharing… I feel so humbled that this little story that I wrote last night was able to make its way to Bob’s family. I pray that you would have a blessed Easter, and enjoy the memories and the love of your grandfather.

  6. Thank you Lara, this story gives me great joy. I couldn’t believe someone wrote about my Dad and his loving and caring heart. Dad has been gone 19 year now but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. The funny thing is I can see Dad driving the bus home and you saying “I’m here” and him laughing. Dad and Mom were (are in Mom’s case) God loving and big hearted people. We always had people at our home and everyone was treated the same way. Thank you again and God Bless.

    • Thank you, Vicki! I am so thankful that I could write about your dad and that these memories found their way to his family so that you could know just a couple more incidents of his kindness (and patience!). I’m not sure what he thought that day I rode home with him but at the time I thought it was quite the joke to play on him! His obvious love for others really made a lasting impact on me.

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