A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
OK, so maybe things got a little out of control. What did you expect? It was the last day of school, and adolescents will be . . . well . . .adolescent.
Especially in the back of the bus - which is the place from where the jawbreakers were coming.
After several near-misses, the bus driver - who probably deserves a medal for driving a bus full of 7th, 8th and 9th graders to and from the junior high for an entire school year - was struck in the back of the head. He had put up with a lot for the previous nine months. But he ran out of patience on the last leg of the last trip on the last day of the year. He pulled the bus to the side of the road and moved quickly to the back.
"I know that came from back here," he said sternly. "Who threw it?"
His passengers just looked at him. A few looked anxiously at each other.
"Come on, fess up," the driver said emphatically. "Who threw it?"
Still no answer.
"OK, here's the deal," the driver said. "If the person who threw that doesn't step up right now, I'll take all of you back to the school and you can all walk home."
Some protested that it wasn't fair that everyone be punished for the foolish action of one candy thrower. Others asked the driver to let them get off the bus and walk from where they were. Still others pointed to the guilty party - or the person they thought was the guilty party - and urged him to step forward.
But he didn't. So as young people moaned their frustration and concern, the driver returned to his seat, shifted the bus into gear and began to make his way back to the school.
Within a block of the school the driver heard a young male voice behind him: "Don't make everyone walk. I did it."
He was surprised to see Chandler standing there. Chandler is bright, handsome, popular and athletic - certainly athletic enough to be able to peg a bus driver with a jawbreaker from 30 feet. But he isn't a trouble-maker. At least, he hadn't been. Still, it was the last day of school, and things can get a little out of control on the last day of school.
The assistant principal, who wasn't expecting to see an "incoming" bus on the most "outgoing" of all school days, was inside the bus as soon as it arrived back at the junior high. The driver indicated that he had been the object of a little hard candy target practice, and the assistant principal demanded to know the identity of the culprit.
This time Chandler spoke up immediately.
"It was me," he said. "I did it. Let everyone else go home."
The assistant principal whisked Chandler off the bus and to the office, and the driver took the rest of his charges home - this time uneventfully.
The students talked as the bus made its final rounds of the school year.
As they shared information, it was clear to everyone that Chandler wasn't the guilty party. And while some may have questioned the ethics of his choice (technically speaking, he didn't tell the truth about his involvement in the incident), no one on the bus doubted his motivations.
"He did it," said one 7th grader, "for all of us."
And like the Good Book says, "greater love hath no man than this."
Especially on the last day of school.
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--- © Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.