When my husband and I were first married he drove a small transportation bus. He really liked his job. He came home with all sorts of stories-most of which involved how tenacious people are. He brought people to work each day-people who could have easily decided that things were just too hard. He enjoyed his riders company.
My favorite story, once while parked and waiting for his next scheduled pick-up a group of clowns got on his bus. Yes—clowns, red rubber noses, floppy shoes, full clown make-up in either sad or happy faces, all of it. This group of developmentally delayed young adults were not on his schedule. While doing his best to explain that he wasn’t the driver they had been waiting for, and that he was sure another was on the way, one tearful young lady refused to get off. That’s all it took. Moments later he had a clown revolt on his hands. He had to call dispatch and explain that he had clowns on his bus, some angry, some sad, some who were painted happy but had now become sad, and nobody was getting off, and what was he supposed to do now? Not my point at all-but how do I keep the clown revolt story to myself?
Some things stay with me, with more profound reason.
He had just as many riders whose challenges were not developmental, but physical. He came home one evening haunted by an exchange he had earlier in the day. After strapping a quadriplegic man’s chair into the bus’s harness system, the man asked him if he had pulled the straps as tight as possible. He asked if he wouldn’t mind doing it once more, pulling each strap as tight as he could. The man looked at him apologetically, explaining that he had been thrown from a vehicle the day he became paralyzed. No ride had ever been the same since and now he needed to know that he was held in tight.
Sometimes we need to know.
My 13 year old daughter spent much of the past school year with her cell phone almost always in hand (sometimes I wish I could chuck that thing-or give it to a group of clowns). Somehow she even worked texting her friends into her already time pressed pre-school morning routine. One morning late Spring she received a text like none she had ever received before. It wasn’t about who was crushing on who, or what she should wear that day. This one was different. One of her friends had tragically woke to find her Mom lying on the floor. Just like that. She hadn’t been ill, she hadn’t hurt herself, she was just gone.
I drove home from work that evening anxious to see my girl and hold her tight. As I drove I thought about how things had shifted for my daughter a bit that day. She’s my oldest child, and here was a moment I couldn’t shield her from. This heartbreak was inside of her circle-not mine. I guess things had shifted for me a bit too.
I walked into the kitchen and put my arms around my girl, tight. With each moment my embrace intensified. I needed her to know she was held in tight. Sometimes we need to know. I closed my eyes and thought about the wheelchair bound man from so many years before.
We chatted about her day. We talked about how fragile life can be. We talked about how her friend’s life would never be quite the same again. We talked about the ways in which she could be a good friend. We talked about prayer.
This will likely stay with me too.