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How The Most Unsuspecting People Can Have A Significant Positive Impact On Us

Lessons From My Kid’s School Bus Driver

My youngest daughter is in first grade. Throughout kindergarten and until last week, she had the best school bus driver. Last Friday was his last day driving our route. I found out Thursday night and I cried.

I feel foolish admitting that. What grown woman cries when her kid’s school bus driver moves on to a different route? Obviously, this one right here. And why did I cry? I’ve wrestled with the answer to that question because it rationally makes no sense.

The trite answer is that Mr. Jim is kind and kindness matters. But it’s more than that. I study and coach people’s impact on others for a living so my reaction made me curious. Plus, I’ve known countless kind people who have moved on to different things and I didn’t get emotional about it.

Then there are those few people who have a unique and special impact. They touch the heart – usually in simple and unsuspecting ways. You know the people I’m talking about… the boss, colleague, friend, family member, neighbor. It can be hard to articulate what makes them special; it’s easier to talk about what they do.

Here’s a flavor of what Mr. Jim does:

  • He always smiles (and smiles are contagious). My most vivid memory of this was the first day of school this year. Olivia was starting first grade and she was incredibly nervous. Nothing I said could calm her down or restore her confidence, so early morning that first day, we waited in awkward silence for her school bus. When the bus arrived and the doors opened, there was Mr. Jim with his big smile and warm greeting for Olivia. And just like that, my girl bee-bopped onto the bus and into her seat without a care in the world.
  • He does little things that make people feel special. He knows the name of every kid on his bus. As they get off the bus each afternoon, he says good-bye to each one: “Good-bye, Beatrice. Have a good night, Dugan. Bye, Chloe,” and so on.
  • He remembers what’s important to people even when they forget. One morning a couple weeks ago, Olivia got on the bus and Mr. Jim greeted her with the toy she forgot the day before. He knew it was hers and had it waiting for her. Olivia was thrilled. When I told my middle-school daughter about this, she said Mr. Jim did the same thing for her when he was her bus driver.
  • He has fun. Each afternoon when I go to the bus stop, my 4 year-old neighbor Claire is waiting for her big brother and sister. Claire likes to race the bus to the bus stop. She runs as fast as she can, and every day, Mr. Jim slows down so Claire can win.

The really cool thing I’ve learned from these special people is that whatever makes them special can be shared with us, and we can have a similar impact on those around us if we want to. We can’t always do the same things they do, but they can teach us how to more positively affect the people around us.

This past week, I’ve wondered what makes Mr. Jim so special because it’s not just in the literal things he does. I’ve wondered how he approaches life and why he does what he does. Here’s what I guess he’d say:

  • Love people every day. Make them feel special.
  • Be kind. Give generously.
  • Do little things with great joy.
  • The little stuff matters – it’s actually All about the little stuff.

These are the real reasons why Mr. Jim is special and why I cried when I found out he was moving on. People like Mr. Jim are the ones we love to have in our lives, whether it’s a boss, colleague, friend, family member or neighbor. They live whole-heartedly, remind us that it’s easy to be kind and have fun, and they show us that a lot of little things – done consistently – make a big difference.

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