Always Thank the Bus Driver . . . And Other Words of Wisdom for All the Kids I’ll Never Meet

by Stephen Wallace, M.S. Ed.

On the occasion of my fiftieth birthday, I contemplated the unthinkable: retirement. Not that I am anywhere near ready to conclude my career, but I now know what before I refused to acknowledge: Some day there will be no more kids for me to counsel, lead, or direct. Yikes.

When I speak in schools, I often challenge kids to think about what they want to be remembered for when they have moved on. I guess what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. My conclusion came to me not in a flash of contemplative brilliance, or at the end of some meandering introspective exercise, but rather in an e-mail from a camper. Fitting, I suppose.

Seeking to capture some of what he had learned at camp to share with his peers, Matt, age seventeen, compiled a list of some of my oft-repeated “rules” to live by at camp, adding his own interpretation of their efficacy elsewhere. Indeed, there are important life lessons even in the smallest of teachable moments.

Since I won’t be around forever, maybe you can pass a few of them along for me.

Never Walk Around Alone

Never walk around alone is an oft-repeated “rule” of mine, particularly when our camp kids are on off-campus trips.

Of course, there is an obvious safety reason for this rule. But there's also a sociability reason. I worry about the kids who spend days before such a trip wondering who they will walk around with — or more precisely, if they'll have someone to walk around with. Jonah, seventeen, says, “You [can] talk to someone you may not have spoken to in the past, leading to a new or stronger friendship.”

Do the Right Thing Even When No One Is Watching

This one goes to the issue of character, demonstrating to kids themselves whether or not they are serious about values they profess to hold. Alicia, sixteen, says, “This is part of moral conscience. Are you really a good person or do you just make good impressions? If you don’t know what’s right for you, you won’t have any difficulty doing it, no matter who is watching you.”

Be Kind to Those Who Love You

This is a good reminder to us all about nurturing important relationships, as they are, by definition, fragile. The late author Leo Buscaglia pointed out that loving another can be a risky proposition, “To love is to risk not being loved in return,” he wrote. But he also pointed out that “Risk is the key to change, for the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.” Indeed, as Oscar Wilde said, “Who, being loved, is poor?”

Johnny points out, “People say you never miss something until it is gone but this saying prevents that from ever happening. If you treat people you love with respect and the same kindness with which they treat you, then you will never lose anyone.” Sam, sixteen, adds, “You should always be good to those who love and care for you. You don’t get many of them and they’re the greatest thing in life.”

And last but not least . . .

Always Thank the Bus Driver

A simple thank you conveys not only appreciation, but more importantly, respect — whether to the bus driver or the owner of the fleet. This reminder encourages young people, regardless of their station in life, to always respect and appreciate others.

Johnny states, “Bus drivers, as well as hundreds of other occupations, always go unnoticed and unappreciated. By simply saying ‘thank you’ to someone, you can truly change someone’s day for the better.” Chris, age seventeen, states, “Thanking the bus driver is not only something you should do once in a while, but every day. There are many people in our lives who help us get to where we need to go. Those people need to be thanked for their good deeds.”

And the boy who started it all? Matt wrote, “Thanking the bus driver, and not only the bus driver, but the ferry crew, the waiter, the lifeguards, and all of the support people necessary to run programs is important. The generation of such phenomenal karma allows for great accomplishments and fun times.”

Stephen Wallace, M.S. Ed., author of the book, Reality Gap: Alcohol, Drugs, and Sex – What Parents Don’t Know and Teens Aren’t Telling, has broad experience as a school psychologist and adolescent counselor. He serves as chairman and CEO of and director of counseling and counselor training at the Cape Cod Sea Camps. Stephen’s columns appear in newspapers across the country. For more information about Stephen’s work, visit StephenGrayWallace.com.

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