A bus driver, a life lesson and a random act of kindness

Emily Sutton by Emily Sutton Additional Needs

Emily Sutton

Emily Sutton

I was launched into the world of special needs on New Year's Eve 2012, on the birth of my son, Jenson. He is fabulous, sprightly and loving, and ha...

A bus driver, a life lesson and a random act of kindness

My ten-year-old, Jenson, adores buses. A day does not go by without his bus obsession cropping up in some form or other. He will happily watch buses on YouTube for hours on end. He has bus-themed reward charts at school and home. His teachers use bus numbers to teach him mathematics, and ‘creative’ bus advertising to help with his reading.

Of a weekend, we can often be found in our local high street, bus spotting, bus riding, hanging out at bus stops and talking to bus drivers. While his younger brother and dad spend every weekend playing football and riding bikes, he and I spend most weekends on, or around, buses.

Last weekend was no different.

Jenson and I were hanging at his favourite spot in the high street, deciding whether to keep watching or to take a trip. A new favourite of Jenson’s, the number 23, pulled up, and the bus driver got off the bus to take a short break.

He was one of those people who as a parent, you immediately feel comfortable around, he engaged with Jenson and chatted about buses. He then invited Jenson onto his empty bus to ‘test the bells’ to which Jenson happily obliged, followed by a sit in the driver’s cab. Jenson was thrilled, as was I.

The date was Sunday13th November, and that morning, the local community had organised a Remembrance Sunday parade down the high street, incorporating the two-minute silence. The driver asked me if we had just been taking part, and I answered no.

I explained that Jenson finds it difficult to stay silent; he can’t process the instruction, and doesn’t understand the gravity of the occasion. Therefore I tend to avoid such occasions, for fear of drawing negative attention due to his inappropriate behaviours.

The bus driver then really surprised me, with the incredulous look that came over his face, and his words that followed.

He exclaimed “What!! Why not?!”. I was taken aback, and attempted to repeat what I had previous said to justify my reasons. He persisted: “This is crazy!”. I must explain at this point, that despite his terse and direct words, our new friend was clearly a gentle, caring man. Although he was challenging me, his intentions were clearly borne out of a belief in equality and fairness, as was demonstrated by what next left his mouth.

“Who cares what the world thinks? The world needs to learn more about differences. Who cares if he is not silent, just because they tell you that you should be silent? The world needs to understand and embrace differences. The world needs to be more understanding, and they need people like you and Jenson to show them”.

Feeling a little like I was being told off by the headmaster, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to say next. I sheepishly concurred that I agreed with him, but that I still have trouble being brave enough to put this into practice, due to many examples of negative attention that we have attracted on past occasions in similar types of situations. At this point, it would have been easy to reflect and conclude that no-one understands a day in the life of a parent like me, unless you walk in those shoes. However, there was something about my new bus-mate today, that made me stop and think.

Dissatisfied with my answers, the bus driver continued to give me a stern talking to; encouraging me to never mind about other people.

His tone was kind, but firm, with sentiment and compassion. After about five minutes, his break was over, and the next thing I knew he was ushering us onto the bus to sit down at the seats nearest the front. He started the engine, shouted “Let’s go for a ride”, and we were off! Before I had a chance to resist, we were taking a 20 minute round trip to the terminus and back.

Unfamiliar with such random acts of kindness, I was taken aback but I soon relaxed into our impromptu journey, with the driver chatting away, and Jenson chatting back, much to the amusement of the other passengers. I took a moment to savour the pleasure and excitement that Jenson was experiencing, and I found myself speaking more loudly and excitedly to Jenson, as we chatted about landmarks that we were passing. I was deliberately heeding the bus driver’s advice about throwing abandon to other people’s perceptions.

Rather than hush him, and keep my voice low, I did the opposite, and it felt great!

I noticed that Jenson was responding to my more relaxed demeanour, and my ease was having a very positive effect on his own behaviour.

On our return to the high street, we had another lovely chat and I learned our new friend’s name, and he told me a little bit about his family.

We have since met up a few times with Laslo, and taken a trip on the number 23. Jenson is happy that he has a new friend and I am happy to have experienced a random act of kindness that has definitely lead to a positive change in my own behaviour and outlook.

In Laslo’s words, “The world needs to be more understanding” and “Who cares what the world thinks?” I am now trying to adopt this mantra every day, thank you Laslo!

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