During some of my college years, I had a part-time job driving a school bus for elementary and middle school students. Since I hadn’t been a kid myself for a while, that job served to remind me just how cruel kids can be to each other. One episode in particular stands out in my mind.
It happened during the winter months when my early-morning pickups took place before the sun came up. I had the “Bandana” route, which was the longest route for our schools. I had to be at my first stop around 6:30 a.m. The way the route was set up, the kids I picked up first in the morning were also the kids I dropped off last in the evening. I always felt for them. They had to ride the bus twice as long as most kids.
It was a bitterly cold morning and I had six or seven kids on the bus as I made my way along the route. The heater was doing all it could do to get the bus warm, but the kids still had to keep wearing their coats, gloves, and toboggans to prevent hypothermia. Anyone who has ever been on a cold bus on a winter morning knows what I’m talking about. Of course it’s not like I could even see the kids in the darkness of the bus. I just knew they were back there in their seats somewhere.
I remember the road I had to drive down to pick up a certain girl. It was called “Lundy” and the girl was my one stop down that road. In other words, she was the only reason why the bus had to go down there. That in itself was enough to put her in bad standing with the rest of the kids.
I got to the stop that morning and everything was business as usual. Like all the other kids, the girl was wearing enough layers of clothing to pass for a deep sea diver. All I could see of her was a portion of her face. She was carrying an armload full of books the way little girls carry their books, using two hands and holding the books close to her chest. I watched as she walked up the steps of the bus and started making her way back through the aisle toward her seat. Once she got past me, I lost sight of her, but I sure heard what happened next.
Sometime shortly after she passed me, she tripped and fell. From the sound of it, she fell for days. Then came that awful sound of all her books hitting the aisle floor. Even though I couldn’t actually see her, I got a clear mental picture of her lying there in a heap, probably bruised and scraped from the fall, clothes dirty from the bus floor, and books and papers scattered all over the place. Bless her heart, it was an awful experience for her. What I didn’t know was that it was about to get worse.
Unfortunately for her, she happened to land in the aisle right next to the seat of boy who couldn’t have cared less about her problems. Rather than bend down and help her, or even ask if she was okay, this little fellow just sat there unfazed. Then he proceeded to utter the two most bone-chilling words I have ever heard one human being say to another. He asked the girl, “Walk much?”
I’m telling you, those words were so cold they took whatever heat the bus heater was churning out and turned it into ice crystals that hung there in mid air inside that bus. I’ve never felt so bad for anyone in my life. So, I stopped the bus, and waited as the poor girl picked herself up, gathered her belongings, and made her way to her seat. I’m sure that I also threw out some kind of rebuke to the boy for his sarcasm and lack of concern, but I can’t really recall what I said. Those two simple words – “Walk much?” – were so devastating that they rendered all conversation that came in their wake mute.
As I write this, it’s a little over a week before Christmas, and I’m already sensing the holiday spirit in my dealings with others. I’ve been told, “Merry Christmas” a few times lately and have used the phrase myself a couple of times. We all get so friendly this time of year, don’t we? We’re nicer, more compassionate, and more concerned about our fellow man. I guess my question is, Why aren’t we that way year round? Elvis Pressley even did a song about it: “If Every Day Was Like Christmas.”
Most people have heard of the golden rule, which is recorded in Matthew 7:12 as a part of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. In that verse, Jesus says:
“Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the Law and the prophets.” (NLT)
I’ve read that variations of this rule were around long before the time of Christ and could be found in Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. But what made Christ’s quote different was the fact that He reversed the spin. You see, the previous variations had all couched the rule in the negative. For example, one prominent Jewish rabbi had taught, “What is hateful to yourself do not to someone else.” In Jesus’ command, though, the rule is couched in the positive as the words “do not” are replaced with “do” and the listener is encouraged to do something good for someone as opposed to merely not doing something bad to them.
Getting back to my bus illustration, in Christ’s way of looking at things it wouldn’t have been enough for that boy to merely resist the urge to say what he said. Even more than that, he should have gotten out of his seat, helped that girl up, and assisted her as she collected her books. That would have been Christ’s golden rule in action. Needless to say, that didn’t happen that morning. But I’m not picking on that boy. I myself, at various times in my life, have said or done things every bit as bad. Truth be told, many of us have.
And so, Christian, this Christmas season and in ALL the days that follow it let’s redouble our efforts at living out our Savior’s golden rule. There are people all around us who have in one way or another metaphorically fallen in the bus aisle and are just lying there in need of our help. And we can either sit there and gloat, like the Greek gods on Mount Olympus looking down upon their peasants, or we can do unto others as we would have them do unto us. The choice is ours, and we face it multiple times each day, not just at Christmastime.