I believe that every unique person on this earth deserves to be treated with respect. When I was just a 5-year-old, blonde, blue-eyed girl in 1982, one day on the school bus coming home from kindergarten shaped this belief for the rest of my life. I will never forget that day.
Until that day, everything outside of our little yellow house was miraculous: relaxing at the salty New Jersey shore, playing in the green grass of our yard, or learning new things at school. Inside the little yellow house it was different, but outside everything was wonderful, until I fell asleep on the school bus.
When I finally did wake up, I looked around and saw that only a few kids were left on the bus. We were in a strange neighborhood, with brick houses lined up right next to each other in a long row. Each house had a stoop with steps that came down to the street. There were no grassy yards with big green trees like my house – just brick and concrete. It was a different world.
I went to the bus driver, with his white hair and pale, wrinkled face. He seemed impossibly old, but was probably just 40 or 50. Mr. Bus Driver was just getting ready to make his last stop of the day. The kids in the back of the bus were getting out of their seats, grabbing their backpacks, and lining up in the long bus aisle. While I told Mr. Bus Driver that I missed my stop, a few of the other children exited the bus.
Mr. Bus Driver very kindly asked me to sit back down, so I sat in the first row of seats behind the steps off the bus leading to the strange, unfamiliar neighborhood. I jumped as the bus door suddenly closed with a loud snap. “Sit back down!!” Mr. Bus Driver yelled to the other kids. “You n——s sit down back there!!” The remaining children turned around and filed slowly to the back of the bus, separated from their friends who had already exited.
I was shocked at this turn of events. Why didn’t Mr. Bus Driver let the kids off the bus? Why did he yell at them and call them a name that was obviously not nice? I looked at the other children in the back of the bus and struggled to understand: Why did I get to go home before them? Why I was treated differently? But my five year old mind only found similarities in our different situations. And I realized that they had troubles too, different struggles, challenges, and different people yelling at them for different reasons. The world outside the little yellow house was not so different than the world within after all.
We are all unique individuals, but we each deserve to be treated with respect, kindness, and generosity. This I believe.