Another school day morning found me frantically running to the designated bus stop on our rural road. I had shoved my (mostly completed) homework (and my bra) into my backpack to be dealt with later, and was taking out my hot-roller curlers while en route. I had to focus on not losing grip on my flute case while my long legs sprinted down the road. I could see the bus coming. There was no way I was going to make it in time. Why, oh why, was I ALWAYS late?
But then, salvation. The bus sat there, and a big hand waved me on. Glenn, once again, had saved me from my perpetually tardy self. Glenn was my bus driver, and he is also one of my greatest heroes.
A tow-truck operation owner and driver, a bus driver for 27 years, and an EMT--Glenn was a humble man who could usually be found wearing denim overalls and with a candy cane or a pretzel rod in his mouth. He liked to call himself "Oscar the Grouch", though all of us school kids quickly discovered he was just a big softie.
He was so unpredictably fun loving--as we would get off the bus, he would bolt from his driver's seat, tap one of us on the shoulder and yell, "Tag, you're it!" beating us off the bus. (By the by, Glenn looked like a grandpa, but he could move. I am not sure anyone ever caught him!) Sometimes he drove my siblings and I down our long driveway to our back door, just to give "door to door service".
The reason I loved him most though, was that he loved people and showed that they mattered. There was a girl on our bus route who came from a rougher situation than most. She was thin, wore ragged, smoky smelling clothes, and kept her head down most of the time. One day a bigger kid started picking on her for some reason that is long forgotten to me now. All I remember is that it escalated into a physical fight where somehow, accidentally or not, her head smashed into the window hard. Suddenly, the bus screeched to a stop. Glenn was there in an instant. I will always remember what happened next. Glenn stooped down on the filthy floor of that school bus and cradled that girl in his arms as she cried. I don't think he said a word to anyone. He just held her until she was done crying, and said she was okay. He walked her to the front of the bus to sit in the seat behind his driver's seat.
Glenn cared when he didn't have to. He taught all of us kids on the bus that day what compassion and kindness was about. He showed how ugly bullying was by juxtaposing it with tenderness and humanity. He showed us the strength men have in protecting the vulnerable. He showed us how one person matters, no matter their looks, smells or other characteristics. One person matters, no matter what.
I struggled during middle school and high school. I often could be found in the girl's bathroom, hiding out in a stall when I got too anxious. I was painfully insecure and shy, so I didnt have many friends or go to many social activities. But no matter what had happened in the morning at home, or at school during the day, I had my kindly, grandfatherly Glenn to greet me by name and help me feel like I mattered. Glenn, his bus, and his unending kindness saw me through a jaw surgery that left me black and blue, incredibly swollen and unable to eat solid food for six weeks. He was a constant for me through a hellish period of fighting an eating disorder.
Glenn didn't know specifics of my high school life--how many dances and dates I didn't go on, how I would choke at sporting events, or the other incidents that seemed to tell me I was pitiful, insignificant. He waited for me to come frantically rushing down the road hundreds of times. How easy it would be to teach me a lesson and leave me in the dust. But if he saw me, he always waited. He saw me through some epic high school failures, and some high points of success. Glenn was a constant beacon of kindness to me, and showed me that no matter what happened, I mattered.
And that is why he is my hero. Because he showed me. Glenn didn't tell me about kindness, and how it can bolster someone's courage against unseen demons. He demonstrated it. Gandolf said it best:
Glenn came to my wedding, and each of my sibling's wedding as well. He came to my daughter's funeral, and a few years later I got to introduce him to my second daughter. I went to his funeral and saw so many others who were touched by him. So many others. If you are one of those people, please leave a comment about how Glenn touched you. This humble bus driver will always be one of my heroes because of the power of his everyday deeds. I love you Glenn!
Glenn passed away in 2014, one day prior to the passing of his sweet wife. The local paper did an article about their humble, yet extraordinary lives that is very touching, worth the read, and accessible here.
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