As I walked to the bus stop on my first day of middle school my two older brothers teasingly told me not to worry too much about the mean bus driver: “he won’t really make you cry” they said. I smiled, but really, I was worried. I had always tagged along with the older kids in my neighborhood and I had heard my share of stories about the bus driver, Frank. Frank was a grumpy, grey-haired old man with sweat circles on his back and under his arms. He would stop the bus on the highway, unbuckle, and hobble his way down the aisle to yell at you. Well, I got on that bus and the old man eyed me as if I’d already done something wrong.
Every day the line of kids at my stop would file on the bus. And every day Frank would look at each of us. But, if you were to look at him, he would always turn his head. This became a pattern for me: I would get on the bus quietly, take a seat in the third row from the front, and then be joined 2 stops later by my friend Maggie. Usually, when Maggie didn’t ride, I would just watch Frank drive. Sometimes I wondered if he was just lonely. It always had made me sad when people wouldn’t smile. Well, I waited, and I waited for the mean Frank to break out. It never happened. Sometimes he would stop the bus on the highway and get out of his seat. But, he would just come back to tell us to face the right direction or to sit down.
I had always been the person in my family to make someone smile when they needed it. Frank was not the mean bus driver I had expected, and it took me a while to forget that man I had built in my head. No one gave Frank the time of day, and it really started to bother me. From then on, I always gave Frank a smile when I got on the bus, and always said “thanks” and “see you later” when I got off. I knew he noticed, but he still turned his head.
Soon, I passed my driver’s test and didn’t need the bus anymore. Though Frank and I had never really communicated, I knew he missed me. The day he honked the horn on his huge yellow school bus and gave me a smile through his window was the day I truly began to believe that a simple smile really can make a difference.
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