• Dr. Stuart P. Stofferahn

Day #2

After my first day testing the scooter, I realized that – while it may still serve a purpose later – it is dead to me for the time being. The cost-benefit ratio is skewed WAY toward too much cost (burden or carrying it around) for the benefit.

So, today, I thought . . . my appointment is only seven miles away and a straight shot from my house, I would rely solely on my bike to get to and from. The weather promised to be lovely, and I considered myself up to the challenge. So, off I went.

I arrived on time, but very sweaty and with a very sore rear end. It’s just a little distracting to have a professional conversation with dark circles under my armpits while looking around for a pillow to put on my seat. And this was only seven miles . . .

While the bike certainly proved a worthy mode of transportation (certainly better than either walking or using the scooter), the bus as a stand-alone was still much more preferable. More and more, the bike/bus combination intrigued me, so, I committed to figuring out how to make the combination work. Turns out it is a piece of cake. Easy-peasy.

Awesome bus driver, easy-peasy bike rack, meeting with Gail McNair and Pat Leach, Director of Lincoln Libraries

Critical to note, however, that if the bike rack is full, you either must wait for the next bus (which could be anywhere from 15-60 minutes away), or ride, cowboy, ride. As we design the transportation curriculum, more options for our students, but we will need to prepare for alternatives should those options close at the last minute.

As I was trapesing around the city today, I found myself on a bus whose riders were mostly middle-school aged kids. Most of them also had bags filled with groceries. With no grocery store around, and the fact that we were at school dismissal time, it was obvious that these kids were participants of a food program through their school or some other wonderful organization ensuring that our kids and their families have avenues for healthy food.

And then I watched something pretty cool.

It started with the first kid I saw get on the bus from the time I boarded, and it involved each and every kid who boarded or exited.

Every kid who boarded the bus initiated some kind of tailored greeting. It struck me for its genuineness. These kids really do love this driver. And the bus driver knew the kids and had similar tailored exchanges. On the surface, it’s cool, right?

Bus driver knows the kids, the kids know the bus driver. Cool.

But when you do some research, exchanges like this mean SO. MUCH. MORE.

This relationship could mean the difference between a really bad or a really good day. A lot of these kids don’t have a single functioning adult relationship in their lives. But this guy . . . just by taking the time to give a little genuineness – takes less than 2 seconds per kid – makes all the difference. While I haven’t been with Lincoln Public Schools for some time, it was their goal at one time to ensure each child had some kind of positive interaction with an adult FIVE TIMES before they got to their classroom. This meant bus drivers, teachers, administrators, kitchen staff, paraprofessional staff, custodial staff . . . . any adult . . . . had the opportunity to prepare kids for a positive mindset – and potentially make an enormous difference in that kid’s life.

While I certainly wouldn’t rule out the notion that this particular bus driver knew the research, I anticipate that he’s just a genuinely nice man who connects with kids and knows that by being real, he gets real back.

And consider the potential for the students of Nebraska Transition College. Initiating and nurturing relationships is a challenge for anyone, but when that challenge is elevated for a person with a disability, a simple routine “Hello,” or “What’s up man?” or “What’s new?” can mean all the difference in the world.

Thursday is class day for our NTC Students!

And when it came time to leave, literally (and I hate using that word) EVERY middle school kid exited with some iteration of this send-off:

“Thank you, Sir.”

Middle schoolers. In Lincoln. Saying “Thank you, Sir.” Without riding the bus to experience it, would this kind of daily exchange meet your assumptions?

I know it didn’t mine.

Lessons Learned Today:

1. Lincoln is all up hill. Even on the downhills, it seems to be uphill.

2. The bus/bike relationship is magical. Slight risk of having to be pushed to the next bus if the rack is full, but totally willing to take it if there are any long treks between transfers.

3. Middle school kids continue to have the ability to overturn every assumption I have of middle schoolers. Shame on me for having such assumptions about middle schoolers.

4. Star Tran bus drivers continue to amaze me with their genuineness and connectedness with the community.

Nebraska Transition College is a non-profit dedicated to helping individuals with a disability find a pathway to independence. But we can’t do it without a large donor network. If this blog brings you meaning in any way, please consider giving a maximum gift of $25 during our “I’ve Got a Ticket to Ride!” May campaign.

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