I take turns with fellow church members driving the bus on Sundays to pick up folks who do not have a ride to church. This outreach service is called appropriately, “Joy Ride.”
That’s funny to me since I remember as a young buck going for joy rides on Friday evenings with my friends. I’m pretty sure we never drove to the church, and I’m equally sure we would have been better off at church than the places where we wound up. And I’m sure, our parents did a lot of praying when we got into the car to go somewhere.
This is not the first time I’ve driven a bus. Years ago, as a teacher, I was summoned to the principal’s office just prior to the end of the day. As I walked into the office, the assistant principal said, “Coach DeLong, you have a chauffer’s license, correct?” I said, “Sure do.” And she immediately shouted, “We have another driver! DeLong, you’re on bus 27.”
It was the second month of school in a new town where we had just moved that summer. I barely knew my way home, let alone drive a school bus full of children. But that’s what you do when your bus drivers go on strike. That first ride home with 53 students on board a big yellow bus was an experience I’ll never forget. Luckily, I had a few football players riding along. I had them sit up front and tell me where to go. I threatened them with all kinds of extra physical work if they steered me wrong. That night, every child slept in his or her own bed.
Come that next morning it was a different story. I had driven the bus home. I was told to take it home because I would be picking up the children for at least a couple of days until the strike could be settled. That bus was almost as big as the duplex where we lived. I got up early the next day and started out on my route. Jennifer asked me if I knew where I was going, and I told her I had a few football players on my route who would direct me. She asked the million-dollar question.
“Where are you picking up the football players?”
About two hours later, I hear a call on the bus’ radio. “Coach DeLong, where are you? School has already started, and we was wondering when you might be comin’ along with those children.”
It’s amazing how all the corn fields look alike when you’re in the country. I finally made it to the school, and for the next few weeks, I drove bus 27 with all the children to school and back home. In between driving, I taught eight physical-education classes. Later in the afternoon, I would coach the football team and in the evening, I went to night classes to finish my master’s degree.
I can’t remember a time when I was more tired.
Now back to Sunday morning. As we were loading the bus, a nice lady tells me we have a new rider. “He’s a retired Baptist minister, but he’s riding with us to the Methodist church.” Then she jokes, “I guess that’s all right since we’re all trying to go to the same place. The retired preacher shouts, “I’m not trying, I’m going!”
It’s nice to know where you’re going.
DeLong is the executive director of Station Exchange Senior Care. Contact him at 912-531-7867 or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.