Kindness is Contagious
The one thing that continuously strikes me about Get On The Bus is its spirit. It seems that Get On The Bus brings out the best in all people, almost like the movie Pay It Forward, without all the bad stuff that happens in the end. We have some of the most wonderful and dedicated volunteers around. Not only do they give their time, but they do it in a way that is honoring both the children and the families that we serve. I remember a couple of years ago one of our extraordinary volunteers not only reunited a child with her father, but reunited an entire family.
* Names have been changed to protect identities.
Before *Carlos went to serve a sentence at California Men’s Colony, he was the sole provider and guardian of his 6 children. When he went to prison, his youngest child went with the biological mother and she took the oldest child too for the purpose of childcare. The other children went to live with an aunt. The aunt was an alcoholic and was very abusive toward the children. The kids were between 5 and 12 at the time and they knew that they had to get out. They waited one evening until aunt passed out and they left in their pjs. They walked a few miles on a major road only to be stopped by the police. The oldest knew that if she told the truth the plan to run away would be foiled. They thought fast and told the cop that they were having a sleep over and were on their way to the local grocery store to get some snacks. The cop bought it and the girls ended up successfully running away to their stepmother’s house that night. The children were caught and unfortunately, all became wards of the state. Instead of being placed together, they were scattered throughout California.
Carlos was heartbroken about what had happened with his children and when he signed up that year for Get On The Bus, he only signed up his youngest and oldest children as he had no idea where the others were. One of our superstar volunteers got word that Carlos had other children and she made it her mission to bring all the children that year for Get On The Bus. She knew that she had an uphill battle not only finding the children, but convincing the foster parents to let the children come. In case the plan failed, she decided it was in the best interest of everyone if she didn’t tell the other children or Carlos that she was working on this. I am proud to say her hard work paid off. On the day of the trip, the kids came on all different busses and they had a reunion in the waiting room with one another. When they walked into the visiting room at CMC, there was not a dry eye in the place. Carlos embraced the children and everyone wept. They sat at a round table and they held hands with one another for the whole visit.
Carlos has now been participating in Get On The Bus for a couple of years now. This year after Get On The Bus, we went back into the prison and did an evaluation with the dads. We gave everyone a chance to come up to the microphone and say something about what Get On The Bus had meant to them. There was again no dry eyes in the room. For the first time ever, everyone was embracing no matter what color, creed or afiliation. When Carlos stepped up to the microphone, he held the photo of his children and he just started to cry. He said without Get On The Bus, he would never see his children and his children would never see one another. He said that words can not express what Get On The Bus has done for him and his family and one day, he hopes to repay the program.
I hold this story and many others close to my heart and I feel its spirit inspires others to emote kindness as well. When I arrived a week ago on the East Coast, I was welcomed with the biggest snow storm of the year. Having run myself down before I left, I was just starting to get sick and the idea of running alone in the middle of a blizzard didn’t excite me all that much. Out of desperation, I printed out a free pass to go to LA Fitness in Settlers Ridge in Robinson. When I arrived, I was greeted by Wayne, one of LA Fitness’s finest, at the front door. When I gave him my free pass, we made small talk and I told him that I was training for the marathon. As he attempted to sign me up for a membership, I told him that I was living out of town and I only needed to use the facility for today to do an eight mile run. Instead of putting my pass into the system, which would have negated it in a couple of days he told me to keep it.
Upon finishing, Wayne stopped me and asked me to have a seat. He asked me for my license and I thought I was going to be put onto the “No Workout List”. Instead Wayne printed me a free pass to come and work out anytime I wanted to while I was home. I have utlized my pass now three times, once yesterday to run nine miles! I was overtaken by his kindness and I want to publically say, “Thank You” to Wayne as you are now a part of the Get On The Bus journey as well!