The Legacy of an Average Joe

Do you have children, grandchildren, maybe nieces and nephews? Do you know they watch everything you do?

When I was a little girl, I was six at the time; I met a man named Joe. Joe was a local farmer and a good friend of my dad but he was also MY school bus driver. 

Every day he would pick me up at the end of our dirt road with his big yellow school bus that was filled with the older kids that had gotten on before me. 

Every day he would tell me to “Put my foot up here”, (patting his seat) “Come on now, put that shoe up here, we don’t want you to trip now, let’s gets those laces tied.”

See, Joe knew my dad worked third shift and, in our home, my mom was not into all those motherly details, such as teaching you how to tie your shoes.  She thought that was something the school was supposed to do.  Joe taught me.

Day after day, we went through the same routine, this bunny ear, then that bunny ear, then knot them together.  Then one day, when Joe stopped to pick me up, my shoes were tied.  He said “Who tied your shoes?”  I looked at him and said with a huge smile, “I did!”  He gave me a huge hug and told me how proud he was of ME. Right there in front of everyone!

There wasn’t a day that went by where he didn’t greet me with a smile and some kind words. He always made me feel good.

The following year, mom put me in Brownies, the first year of girl scouts. Brownies was at the junior high school six blocks away from the elementary school.  The other girls were picked up by their moms and driven to the junior high.  The first couple times I walked but when Joe saw that he told me to get on the bus like I was going home like any other day, but on Tuesday’s, which was Brownie day, his first stop would be the junior high so I wouldn’t have to walk.  He gave me a chocolate bar on those days to make me smile and told me to have a fun.  Again, he made me feel special.

A couple years later, on our ride home from school; we got caught in a storm. The wind was whipping all around us; the rain was pounding down on the roof of the bus.  The sky was very dark. Joe was at the wheel, making all the normal stops.

We were about halfway done when it happened … like the flip of a switch. The world became dead quiet. Everything went still. The wind and rain stopped. The air all around us had this thick, hard feeling to it.

Joe yelled “Open all the windows!”  He said it in a way that no one questioned it. It was then that all of us saw it. This massive grey tornado that was coming straight towards us. 

Joe screamed “Get down on the floor!” At the same time, he was turning the bus across the lanes so the front of the bus was pointing straight at the tornado.

We all started screaming for Joe “Get Down, Get Down!” but he ignored us and sat watching as that tornado came towards us. He had his foot on the gas pedal ready to get out of there if we needed too. 

Joe screamed over the loud roar of the tornado as it closed in on us “Cover your heads”. You could feel the tornado pass by the bus. The roar reverberated in our ears, and shook the bus, then Pop, Pop, Pop – all the windows exploded over our heads. We had glass raining down all over us. It seemed like time stood still but it was no more than 30 seconds.

Amongst all the chaos and screaming, Joe watched that tornado pass by us until we were safe. Then he revved that engine and he floored it down the road. Dropping the rest of us at our homes one by one just like any other day.

It was a miracle but not one of us was hurt.

I know none of our parents knew what happened that day but us kids knew.

I looked up to Joe.  He befriended a little girl who needed someone to care. He taught her how much a smile means.  I didn’t realize how much he influenced my life until many years later when I went to his funeral.  Just to let you know, he died from old age, not from chasing tornados.

Joe showed me what being a positive influence means to other people. You can change lives.

He chose to risk his life for a bus full of kids because that is how he lived his life. He chose that path each and every day. That was Joe.

Remember, people listen. People imitate, they echo what they see and hear, people learn by example, both good and bad. The words that you say and the choices that you make define who you are.

Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. – Patrick Overton

I couldn’t have said it any better. Choose to make your life worth imitating because you never know who is listening or watching.

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