Michelle here with the Ugly Kid Army! I am 22 years old and I have just graduated college. Even though my public school days are behind me, writing postcards to kids who have been bullied has definitely brought back memories for me. Some good… some not so good.
People have been writing to us asking if we can send one of our postcards to their kid, and every other request includes “he/she doesn’t even want to ride the bus.” That’s something I can relate to. From kindergarten to 3rd grade, I was lucky enough to ride the bus with all of my friends. Riding the bus was actually the highlight of my day. However, in 4th grade my bus route changed and all of my friends that I had previously ridden the bus with had switched to another bus. My new bus was filled with bullies and other kids that I had nothing in common with. I often found myself sitting toward the front of the bus by myself. Being alone on the bus is a valid fear within itself, however to add insult to injury, other kids began putting their backpacks in the empty space next to me because “I had no friends.” I knew this wasn’t true in the long run, but it hurt. It hurt terribly.
I wanted to tell my parents that I didn’t want to ride the bus anymore. But I decided I had to tough it out. I had a choice to make. Either I could try to fit in with the mean kids in order to save myself from the loneliness, or I could stay lonely. Both options weren’t really a viable option to me at all, so I chose something completely unorthodox: I befriended the bus driver.
My bus drivers name was Bernadette, and even though we were at least 30 years apart in age, we had a lot in common. We both loved animals, we both liked to ice skate, and most of all, we both needed a friend. Children often overlook how badly bus drivers get treated. Hard to believe a bunch of kids can make a grown woman feel bullied as well. Bernadette felt just as left out as I did. Soon, I didn’t hate the bus ride anymore. In fact, I enjoyed it! I loved talking to Bernadette about my day and hearing about hers. She even got me a Christmas present! I don’t think I really realized that I had an impact on Bernadette’s life until I was 22 and stumbled upon my 4th grade yearbook. There, I found this:
Needless to say, this warmed my heart. I moved from New York to Texas after 4th grade, and even though I have lost touch with Bernadette, I hope that she still values our friendship as much as I do! So, I know that riding the bus can be hard sometimes, but look around! Friends and support can pop up in uncommon places. And who knows, maybe you’ll even form a friendship so strong that it still warms your heart over a decade later!
Until next time,
PS: Don’t forget to do something awesome for someone today.