I was tired and I was rushed. The lecture day was over, Joe had loaded the car, and a woman was standing talking to me telling me a story. I was listening, kind of, but I noticed Joe tapping his foot to the 'Let's go, let's go, let's go' beat. And because of this, I missed the point of her story. But I wasn't alone in this.
When we got to the car, Joe asked what she was telling me. I told him that she was a bus driver, driving kids with disabilities to school and back. She told me of a story about a little boy who got on her bus who would upset the other kids because he would scream long and loud. She tried several solutions to get him to sit quietly. None worked.
One day she brought a large picture book on the bus an sat with him. Getting him to turn pages and she'd read the words to him. She did this for several days and then noticed that he would now quietly turn the pages of the book. It was something that worked.
Several weeks later she decided to tell the teacher at the school about the solution to the problem of screaming on the bus. "He likes," she said, "looking at books on the ride to and from school." The teacher, not always a receptive lot, rolled eyes and said, "He's blind, he can't like picture books."
The driver was embarassed and wished she'd said nothing.
The woman told me this story to illustrate the point of 'poor communication' as the subject of my lecture today was communication.
I nodded and agreed that we do communicate poorly, I didn't add but should have - that if you are a bus driver or a janitor or a playground monitor - you're so far down on the respect-o-meter that you might as well be a parent.
So, driving back to the hotel, telling Joe her story something clicked.
He stopped screaming.
He looked at the book, quietly.
All this mushed around in my head. I wonder if he really liked having her sit with him, give him a gift of a book, read it to him, describe the pictures. Maybe as he flipped the pages her words stayed with him, maybe he saw the pages in his mind, maybe he liked being talked to and included. Maybe it wasn't about the book, maybe it was about the caring, the times spent together, the contact she'd made.
Maybe everyone missed the point.
Maybe the screaming meant, "I'm lonely in here."
Maybe the bus driver caring was all he needed.
Maybe the book was more than a book.
He stopped screaming.
He looked at a book.
He's not the one who is blind here.