Back in the fourth or fifth grade my teacher asked us to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up. Now, I know most of us have been asked that and, depending on our age, have had many answers to it. At 43-years old I still remember the answer I gave the teacher that day. I happily responded, "I would like to be either a Policeman or a Hit Man for the Mob!" Just like you reading this now, my teacher gave me a look of bafflement and wondered how I came up with those two very different career choices. Even growing up in Los Angeles where there is always contention between law enforcement and minority groups I found the police profession to be honorable. I wanted to "Serve and Protect" as the side of the police cars stated.I wanted to wear a uniform and know that people would feel safe when they saw me come into the room. I didn't want drugs and drug dealers hurting people or doing any of the stuff I saw on a regular basis walking the streets of South Central Los Angeles. Of course the teacher found that to be a great reason to be a police officer.
As for the Hitman for the Mob choice, I figured I could be a bad ass killer taking out bad people. As you can probably guess at that age I really didn't understand what the mob was really about and that, to be frank, they weren't going to let my Black self into their Italian club. Even so, I proudly proclaimed that was my goals in life. My teacher did her best to guide me towards more honorable life choices to go along with being a police officer like a doctor, lawyer, teacher or scientist making discoveries for the world. What do you want to be? What a question that is for a little mind.
As you read that did you think back to your own time of answering that question? I bet it ranged from super hero to President of the World. Some might want to be athletes or millionaires or space and time travelers. Some want to be parents, farmers and even own zoos, restaurants, book stores and coffee shops. The dreams are vast and amazing when you are that age. Sometimes they are illogical and far-fetched too. Some might want to be water or a bird. Maybe energy or part of the sun. I heard one kid recently say he was going to be a statue forever and never move from the spot. Now, that is imagination and kid at play but it still makes me think of all the things we come up with to answer that question. However, no one wants to be the bus driver!
In this world there are thousands and thousands of buses which have bus drivers. Thousands of them. We see them on the freeways, on the streets, at the schools and the stadiums. Everywhere. Yet, no one says the want to be the bus driver when asked that question as a young child. As a person taking a trip I see a bus like the one pictured and I think, "oh yea, this is going to be comfortable." but I know not at any point of my life growing up would I imagine actually being a bus driver. Did you? Did you ever think you would want to be a bus driver? No one wants to be the bus driver.
As we get older or desires and choices of what we want to be change for many reasons. Sometimes they stay the same or evolve to greater. For instance, I wanted to be a police officer
but I decided to go into the military instead. Here is a young me during basic training in the United States Air Force. I was going to be a Military Police Officer but wound up being an Inventory Control Specialist (supply guy). Even though I did not become a police officer I was protecting people. I was serving my country. I was the guy in uniform that people would see and feel safe around. I was what I wanted to be just not specifically. Ironically, during my military career I did in fact drive buses which would make me a bus driver too. Hell I even flew and F15 Fighter jet during an Incentive Flight which I was awarded a chance to fly in that amazing plane. I guess I am a pilot too. In any case, and back on point, my dream to be something was being followed in the best way I could make happen. What I wanted to be when I grew up, while slightly altered, was being lived.
That is what we all hope for ourselves and our families. It is what we optimistically believe when we realize our little boy can throw a ball harder than the other kids or our little girl can out run all the other kids in her school and loves track and field. It could be academic, physical, artistic or musically too. We see it and we know that a dream can become the reality. It's our hope. It's our desire. Hell, we even say its our destiny. "Work hard enough and success will happen!" I've heard that many times. Yet, no one wants to be the bus driver.
What is your point? Why did I just read 4600 words that doesn't explain why no one wants to be a bus driver? You see we all start out wanting to be something. We dream of it. We hope, pray, strive and drive to become it. Then life happens. Babies happen. Marriage happens. Money happens. Health happens. Ideas happen. It all changes as we grow older because old happens too.
The kid above in the Air Force blue wanted to be a police officer or a mob hit man eventually made his way to being the man to the left. That man was Navy Petty Officer who retired after 22 years never having arrested anyone nor killed in one who needed killing. Nothing like what I wanted to be when I grew up.
People from my city who see me don't recognize the man who now stands where a wild LA kid once stood. Some ask if I ever became this or that depending on what they remember of the person I was when we knew each other. I tell about my stories of world travel, stupid and amazing adventures, pains as well as heart filling moments. In the end, most people will say I have had a good life and that I am, if they are religious, blessed to have lived it.
As I type I think again, no one wants to be the bus driver. These people don't see the bus driver. The see the man that served his country, has gone to war, has helped motivate people. They see someone whose dreams changed but they can still relate to because I took one of those positive steps. I am grateful I can look people in the eye and they know who I am and they want to hear my story. The kid grew up and did something to be proud of and in that my footprint is made with the option to get bigger. Yet, I don't want to be the bus driver. Let me finally clarify.
The other day a friend of mine told a story of stopping to talk to a homeless man and his dog. After talking to them she went about her way running errands. She decided to buy the man some food and some dog food for the dog. She found the man and the dog a bit later and joined them as she gave them her offerings. The man was grateful as was the dog, I'm sure, and so was my friend. While sitting there someone drove by and yelled, "Get a job you loser." No one wants to be a bus driver! Did the homeless set out to be homeless? Did he answer the question from his teacher way back in elementary school, "I want to be homeless with a dog starving and begging for food." I am sure that is not what he had wrote. I'd wager he wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or maybe a boxer but not homeless. Not a bus driver.
The kid in the Air Force uniform and the man in the Navy uniform served this country honorably. He has ribbons, awards, plaques and a myriad of accolades. He, better yet I, am proud of 22-years of service. Today, the picture to the right is where more than a few men and women who once stood proudly in pictures like I have about now live. Homeless with starving dogs hoping someone will help them. A man or woman who once risked life and limb for a flag of freedom now risk life and limb for left over bread. At 43 I have a house, cars, family and some (not much) money. My financial needs are pretty much met but I, like the man my friend was talking to, could wind up living in this picture. I would not have written that as an answer to my teacher yet that is where I could live.
We are a society that looks at people as if they wanted to be where they have landed. Oh yes, many have made choices that led them to where they are and that is a very important thing for each individual to wrestle with on his/her own. However, it is up to us to remember that they never set out to be there. We look at homeless people, drug addicts, prostitutes, hungry, poor
and judge them for who they are today but forget that years before they were kids in school talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up.
No one sets out to be hooked on drugs. No one sets out to lose everything from money to hope. No one wants risk death by sharing dirty needles and sexual acts with unhealthy and unclean people. They did not set out to be those people who become nobody as people walk by and walk over them. No one wants to be the bus driver. In fact, the beautiful hope that
lives in us all for some burn like the bus here. It dies with the death of parent, a personal attack, a lost love or, in a lot of cases, that first hit.
No one wants to be the bus driver when they have options to choose because we all want the best possible life we could ever imagine. Yet, someone has to be the bus driver. Someone is going to be the criminal, the murder, the rapist, the molester or any of the other evil things humans can become. They will also be the presidents, the doctors, healers, humanitarians, gardeners, bus drivers, janitors, athletes and everything else. Most will not be what they thought they would be when "they grew up" because life happens.
So before you cast the stone judgement at someone whose story you don't not know take a moment and ask yourself, "what did he/she want to be when he/she grew up?" If we learn from other peoples stories we may very well learn to help others who lost their way find it again. We all make choices sometimes they are very bad ones that lead to a life of hurt, pain and personal-destruction. My friend showed the example by simply being human to another person. Maybe we should try doing that more often to one another. Compassion takes little effort.
I'll end with this, I know a few bus drivers and they, for the most part, love what they do. We need them and we often take them for granted. They drive our kids to and from school, sporting events and academic events as well. It is an honorable job and my choice to use it was simply because no one has ever said, to me, they wanted to grow up and drive a bus. The truth is we'd should consider our self lucky if we could be the one to drive the bus.
It is never to late to grow up. What do you want to be when you grow up? For me, I want to drive the bus! Just A Thought my friends.