Word of advice…
Never drink from an
elementary school water fountain.
DON’T DO IT!
To be “clear,” sometimes the truth is “nasty.” The following is adapted from the last chapter of my book, Life Lessons from the School Bus.
Every once in a while a bus driver, or anyone for that matter, may find himself saying, “I didn’t see that one coming!” In other words, every once in a while something happens; somebody says something that you would have never imagined. Let me tell you about one of those “once in a while’s.”
Kids are always doing stuff to each other to be aggravating. You have probably witnessed children throwing spit wads, taking items out of another’s book bag, or hiding a child’s shoe right before her stop. No? Well what about spitting on each other?
Oh, yes, children are well-accustomed to spitting on each other, especially boys. Now, they never admit to doing it; they usually blame it on the one kid with no salivary glands. But there was this one time when a boy on my bus accused a girl of spitting on him when she actually didn’t. How do I know that she didn’t? She showed me proof!
So, “Jack” hollered from the back of the bus, “Mr. Baker! ‘Jill’ spit on me!” Before I could rationally respond, another voice came from the back, the voice of the accused, crying, “No I didn’t – he’s lying!” Since I was in the process of driving and there was no place to pull over and deal with the situation, all I could do at the moment was respond with a simple request: “STOP SPITTING!”
A moment passed, then Jill came up to the seat behind me (which is dangerous and against the rules, by the way). “Mr. Baker,” she said in a tone laced with disgust, “I did not spit on Jack; he spit on himself after he spit on the seat.”
“What?” I asked. “He’s spitting on the seat?! That’s gross!” Incidentally, this is one of those times when I find it appropriate to ask: why do people of any age find enjoyment in recreational spitting? Why waist perfectly good saliva when there’s nothing necessarily nasty to expel from one’s mouth?
Anyway, a moment or two later, Jack came up to share his side of the story. “Mr. Baker, Jill did spit on me! See my shirt? See, this is her spit…she spit on me! See?”
I couldn’t argue with what I saw. There, as plain as the marks on a Dalmatian, were wet spots where something liquidy had collided with his shirt. Somebody had spit on him.
“Jill!” I yelled, “Why did you spit on Jack?” From the back of the bus came an insistent reply, “But I didn’t! He spit on himself just to get me in trouble!”
Where’s Solomon when you need him? Why can’t school buses be equipped with portable DNA equipment? How was I supposed to determine who spit on whom? How could I prove who needed to be punished with a stern warning and a verbal reprimand? The answer came in a way I never would have dreamed, but I will never forget.
“Mr. Baker…” Jill had made her way back up to the seat behind me, again while I was driving. “Jill, you need to sit down!” I told her.
“But Mr. Baker…” Let me just pause here to try to describe Jill’s way of saying my name. Jill spoke with a slightly non-emotional, matter-of-fact, drawn-out southern drawl. It sounded more like “Miiis-turr Buh-ayyy-kurr…”
“Mr. Baker, I didn’t spit on Jack; he spit on the seats and then on himself to make it look like I did it,” she said. “But I didn’t, and I can prove it.”
“Really,” I asked.
“Yessir,” Jill replied. “You see, Jack was eating green candy, and the spit on his shirt was green – mine is not…SEE!”
At that point, just around my right shoulder, came the arm of a little girl. Attached to that arm was a palm, and in that palm was half an ounce of spit – yes, spit! It looked like a blob of clear silicone!
“It wasn’t me that spit, ‘cause my spit is clear, seeeee Mr. Baker?”
I couldn’t argue with her. She proved her point. There was the proof puddled in the palm of her hand, clear as day. I nearly threw up.
We may not like it, but sometimes the truth is hard to stomach – and nothing like what we expected.
The simple fact is that truth isn’t always pleasant; more often it is nasty. No woman wants to hear the truth when she asks, “Does this dress make me look fat?” No man wants to hear the truth when he asks, “How did I do with the laundry?” But sometimes the truth has to be told to make a difference. Unfortunately, to play off the words of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, many can’t handle the truth.
For example, there is a saying that goes, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Do you know where that saying came from? It comes from Jesus. He said, “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:31-32). The part that is hard for many to stomach is the part where He says, “If you continue in my word…” In other words, in order to know the truth that will set one free, one must be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Some say that truth is relative, that it changes with the circumstances of life. Others have said that there is no truth, only perception (Gustave Flaubert). However, without truth there can be no lie, no wrong, and no remedy for the spit on some kid’s shirt, not to mention the darkness in our hearts. But when we follow Jesus, we can rest assured there is Truth to know, for He said in John 14:6, “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE…”
Oh, one more thing… When preparing to write this, I asked the girl in the story what she thought the moral should be. She said, “Sometimes the truth is nasty.”
The following was originally published in October of 2012 – when I still drove a school bus.
I am not a big Halloween guy. I don’t get in to the dressing up, and all that. For that matter, I don’t celebrate the holiday.
However, I am not a total Hallomeany. I am not the Halloween version of Scrooge. For example, when a little girl asked what I thought of her costume, I didn’t say, “You look more like a prostitot than a princess.” I said, “You look very nice!”
When the little boys come around dressed like monsters, I always shiver like I am scared. When they dress like superheroes, I ask if they can fly. And when they look like a cat, dog, or freakazoid satanic mutt from the pits of hell, I say, “Wow! Do you have fleas, too?”
This time I wore an Afro (a.k.a, Bob Ross w/attitude).
One little girl told me she was Little Red Riding Hood. I told her I was Big Black Afro Hood.
But the funny thing about all of this is the reaction of the elementary kids. It really made me wonder what bus they have been riding the last three months.
The Kids: (at least 1,000 times) “Mr. Baker, is that your real hair?”
Me: “Yes. It is. I was bald yesterday, but I put fertilizer on my head and my hair grew overnight.”
The Kids: “No it’s not…I bet it is a wig…that’s not your hair…let me touch it…I bet it’s a wig.”
Me: “Of course it’s my real hair.”
The Kids: “Is that really your real hair? You’re wearing a wig…I just know it.”
Me: (I got upset with some children who wouldn’t stay in their seats, so I got serious and took off the wig.)
A Little Girl (that has ridden the bus for 3 months): “Aaaahhhh (gasping, then giggling as she whispers to another child), Mr. Baker’s BALD!
Me: “You THINK?! Where have you been? Did you not see me yesterday? Are you blind?”
After telling the above story a few times, it seemed God wanted to tell me something.
I kept thinking of a conversation Jesus has with Phillip in John 14:8-9. Phillip asked, “Show us the Father.” That’s when Jesus replied in the same way I did to the little girl, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me?”
That got me to wondering. How long have I known Jesus? And how many times do I act like I haven’t even been paying attention to His presence? How many times have I been surprised by an answered prayer? How many times have I doubted, only to find Him faithful?
“You’ve known Me how long?” Long enough to know better.
I know that some of you may have short-term memory, but many of you may remember a post I published back in January entitled, “How Do You Pronounce This Word?”
What was the word? Grandpa.
All I did was show a picture of a coffee mug, then promise that more details would follow.
Well, now is the time to share the details that I promised earlier.
On Friday the 24th of this month (May), I officially became a grandpa – Emma’s adoption became final. The above picture was taken at the courthouse, and it’s obvious she’s intelligent enough to understand everything that was happening.
Who wouldn’t smile at the thought of being the granddaughter of a grandpa who can sing, draw, color, play with blocks, imitate Grover from Sesame Street, and generally be a kid at the drop of a hat?
I have to admit, I look forward to the day, someday in the future, when the whole subject of adoption can lead to an “adoption conversation.”
There are five times in the Bible where “adoption” is mentioned. One of those times is in the well-known verse below:
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. – Romans 8:15
It will be great to one day have a conversation with her about salvation, and from an aspect that few of us understand as much as she will – because she’s that intelligent 🙂
We will talk about how that just like her mom and dad, her Father in heaven said, “I’ll do whatever it takes to make her mine.” And maybe – because she’s a smart one – she’ll enlighten me to some deeper aspects of a truth that applies equally to me.
I’m so happy that Josh and Alicia were able to have their dream come true to expand their family. We were already so proud of them, but now we are even more proud of how they are becoming the best parents they can be.
My prayer for them is that they also think of the “adoption conversation” and remember that they, more than anyone else in the world, will be able to mirror the love of the Father in their parenting. By their example they can lay the groundwork for a personal introduction to the One who wants to adopt us all into His Family.
Now that you know her, expect more in the future – I’m a grandpa, you know.
Just suppose you heard a beautiful and talented 27-year-old female bemoan, “I ain’t got no man in my life.” Now, consider that the woman saying these words was a bride-to-be on the television show Married at First Sight.
Would you feel sorry for her? Or, would you do as I have done and raise your voice to the screen of your television and say, “You’re only 27!”
For the record, my wife (and a couple of men I know) watch Married at First Sight, but I can’t stand that show.
But what if it were little boys who said, “I ain’t got no man in my life”?
On Friday, as I was transporting a bus load of children to their homes, I happened to ask the kids behind me, “Do you know what today is?”
“It’s Friday!” answered a young boy to my right.
“And what does that mean?” I asked.
“That means you ain’t got a job tomorrow, or the next day. . . You don’t get to work till Monday.”
“Well,” I responded, “that’s not exactly true. I have weddings to do tomorrow, and then on Sunday I preach at church, so I will be working every day.”
“Preaching ain’t work!” one boy replied. “Yeah,” said another, “preaching ain’t a job!”
“Well, they pay me to be their pastor at the church where I preach,” I said.
“Then if you get paid, I guess it’s a job,” replied one of the boys.
It is illegal for me to take pictures of children on the school bus, but there’s nothing illegal about me submitting an accurate and detailed artistic rendering, is there?
One of the boys behind me then said, “My pastor is my daddy,” to which I replied, “That’s cool!”
“Well, I mean, he ain’t really my daddy,” the 3rd grader said, “but my mamma told me I could call him Daddy.”
I nodded my head, looked in the student mirror above me, and replied, “OK, I guess that’s a good thing.”
That’s when this young boy said, “I ain’t got no man in my life.”
To which the two boys to my right and behind me said with a matter-of-fact tone, “I ain’t got no man in my life, either,” and “I ain’t got no daddy.”
My heart broke.
I held up my right hand and put my thumb and forefinger almost together and said, “Well, then, maybe I can be your ‘mini’ daddy on the bus.”
The little boy behind me then exclaimed, “Yeah! You could be my bus driver daddy!”
As soon as the boy behind me told me I could be his “bus driver daddy,” the following words immediately – I mean immediately – came to mind . . . “A father to the fatherless.”
Now, when I began to think of the verse from which those words came, I had in my mind James 1:27, which described what “true religion” is:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.
“To visit the fatherless” wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it was close. I took the extra step to dig into the word “visit” and there I found that it means (my paraphrase): “to look at something with the intention of doing something.”
But then I found the source verse which takes the whole thought to a higher level. There, in Psalm 68:5, the Psalmist refers to God as . . . you guessed it . . . a “father to the fatherless.”
Therefore, when we allow God to use us, He can place us where our faith – our religion – can be “worked out” for the benefit of those in need. Pure religion, the real thing, is not simply a formulaic system of do’s and don’t’s that make us look holy; it’s an outworking of the character of God through us to those who need to know the love of God, their Abba Father.
HE’s the man they really need in their lives!
Remember this: For the Christian, there are are no “secular” jobs; every job is holy . . . every job is an opportunity for ministry.
Now that I’m actually a grandfather, I have more of a right to act like one. You know, the kind of old guy that says what he wants to say when he wants to say it, then blames others for not understanding his wisdom. Yeah, that’s me – I’m an up-and-coming old codger.
Grandfathers are also notorious/famous for telling tall tales, embellishing the facts, and leaving grand kids confused about actual historical events. Of course, the point of those stories is to keep a kid’s attention for more than 30 seconds; the straight truth can be boring at times.
So, now that I’m a real grandpa, I have a right to act like one on the school bus. It keeps me entertained.
Many times on Facebook I share short little conversations I’ve had with children on the bus (they say the darnedest things, you know). However, today I’m skipping Facebook and going straight to the blog with a conversation I had a while back.
I’m sure all of you are gonna hate me after you read this.
Me: Good morning.
5th Grade Boy: Good morning.
Me: How are you feeling today? You holding up?
Boy: What? Yeah, I’m ok. Why?
Me: I mean, it must be pretty hard; I heard the bad news.
Boy: What bad news?
Me: About your goldfish dying.
Boy: What? I don’t have a fish. At least not anymore. I haven’t had a fish in a long time.
Me: So it died.
Boy: I don’t know. I guess.
Me: Well I’m proud of you for taking it so well.
Boy: Uh, OK.
Me: And I heard about your cat, too. That was horrible.
Boy: Huh? What about my cat? Nothing happened to the cat.
Me: Well, I heard it died in a horrible freak lawnmower accident. I know that must be hard on you.
Boy: What? My cat didn’t die in a lawnmower accident! He just ran away.
Me: OK. If that’s what they tell you. You believe that.
Boy: Guess what!? (says the boy to another kid in a seat beside him) I had a cat die in a freak lawnmower accident! Cool, huh??
I pity my grandchildren, don’t you?