My daughter was sitting on our front porch when Mr. John Cook drove up to greet her. She was thrilled to see him, and also a little surprised that he had come to her house. But that’s Mr. Cook, for you, the Dutchess County Route 6 school bus driver who was making stops to give parents his cell phone number and answer any questions the children who ride his route might have. My daughter and he chatted outside. He was reassuring and general in how he framed his questions. His invitation to ask questions was not intended to amplify nerves, only to assuage them. His calm and friendly presence modeled a kind of confidence and trust.
Mr. Cook our local bus driver, went the extra mile, both literally and figuratively. In so doing, he reminded me that the kid anxieties thrumming now are very real. In coming to say hello to my daughter, Mr. Cook demonstrated a level of respect for his young charges by spending the time on a pandemic practice run (I know Mr. Cook always does a practice run, but this year, in a year when so many people are running on empty, it was both more necessary and more heroic).
I called Mr. Cook later on and we got to chatting. He is in his early 70’s and clearly embraces his responsibilities. He is a local legend, always waiting to be sure that a child enters their house, and knowing the names of all the children on the bus. “I really like knowing the kids on my bus, and making sure that they are comfortable riding," he told me.
Talking to Mr. Cook got me thinking about all the unsung heroes of the pandemic who serve children without the recognition they deserve. These bus drivers, school aides, and cafeteria food service providers are closer to our children in the world as we learn to release them. They are a critical line of defense as these children rediscover their sea legs. We owe these professionals an immense debt of gratitude.
This is simply to say that we see you. We celebrate you. We are thankful for your efforts on behalf of these children. You are our eyes when we cannot be — and it’s impossible to overstate the importance of that fact.
So I will be checking in to see whether you need some extra hand sanitizer. I’ll be asking about your supplies of PPE. I’ll be looking for ways to partner with you as you form the first line of re-entry. And for that, we thank you. Mr. Cook, you know where I live — if you need some extra antiseptic wipes, or simply someone to ask you how you’re doing, I’ll be here.
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