“Prepared by Our Bus Friends,” Ensign, Jan. 2002, 72–73
I was glad to be offered a job as a bus driver during my final quarter at the university I was attending before moving on to graduate school. My enthusiasm diminished, however, when I was told that the passengers with whom I would be spending three hours a day were mentally disabled. I had never spent much time with mentally disabled people, so even though I accepted the job, I felt anxious.
As it turned out, the job was truly delightful. My wife often rode with me, and we fell in love with our new bus friends. We gained a whole new appreciation for the mentally disabled. They were courteous, punctual, and responsible. Their days were filled with smiles, hugs, and pride for the work they were doing.
We also sensed a deep spiritual quality in their lives. It was easy to feel Christlike love among these people. Even when we did not feel good about ourselves, they accepted us in such a way that it lifted our spirits. They were very attuned to the needs and feelings of each other and of all those around them.
I recall the day when one of the passengers, Ranae, was particularly sad because of some events that had occurred at her school and work. She was the first to board the bus and, in a silent and somewhat disheartened mood, took her place near the rear. As each person got on the bus, they showed to Ranae their love and concern. By the time the bus was loaded, everyone had gathered around Ranae, and within minutes there was nothing but laughter, including from Ranae.
The night before my last day driving the bus, my wife and I had dinner with our close friends Steve and Myrna. Steve had driven the bus for me on occasion and was to take my place. Much of our dinner discussion centered on the people who rode the bus. We talked of their goodness and Christlike characteristics. We concluded that parents of the mentally disabled, though faced with many challenges, must often feel grateful for the unexpected blessings their children can bring to their lives.
The next morning I made my early-morning run on the bus and then returned home. As I entered our apartment my wife told me that it was time to go to the hospital for the birth of our second child. I was surprised because the baby wasn’t due for another month.
All went well with the delivery, but it soon became apparent that our doctor was concerned. Shortly thereafter we were told that our newborn son had Down syndrome. Rather than despair or grieve, we thought of our conversation the night before and took comfort in our own words.
Later our doctor told us that he felt we had not dealt with our son’s disability and were denying the problem. He told his staff that he expected us to be utterly overwhelmed at some point. He did not realize, until later, the preparation we had received through my bus-driving job. Eventually he had us visit parents of children with Down syndrome.
Some might call it chance that I spent the summer with a group of mentally disabled people who became my friends. My wife and I feel, however, that through this episode the Lord prepared our hearts so that we did not experience fear or sorrow when we had a special child of our own. We have maintained our relationship with these bus friends for more than 20 years through Special Olympics and other events. My wife and I are grateful for the preparation we were given to have this son. Ours has been a journey of appreciation and joy.