School Bus drivers always have stories to tell and most of them come directly from the children that once our rode our buses. This one is no exception, but it is also a fine example of how kids themselves through laughter can overcome what we have all come to call bullying. Years ago I had a student on my bus that was slow and he talked a bit funny because of it. The other students used to tease and pick on him constantly by calling him "retard Joe." I would yell at them often for picking on this kid, but as hard as I tried these little wise guys always found away to get a "retard Joe" remark or two in during just about every trip. One special day, Joe finally had it up to the top with their crap and decided to take matters in his own hands. Out of the blue Joe stands up from the front seat and turns to the students seated behind him and yells: "I not wetarded! I just stupid!" Well the whole bus load of students just roared into a laughter so loud that I am certain it was heard a half a block away. What made matters worse is I started laughing so hard myself that I had tears in my eyes and had to pull the bus over just to regain my composure. At that point, I looked back at Joe and he was standing there behind his seat looking at me as if to say why is everybody laughing. I guess it suddenly hit him that instant why what he said made everybody laugh and then he began to laugh even louder than the rest of us. I don't know if the laughter erased all of Joe's pain from being picked on, but I can tell you that not one of those students ever called him "retard Joe" again from that point on. Some of the same students that once picked on Joe went out of their way to talk to him and the kid they once called "retard Joe" became Jojo. The moral of this story is never underestimate anybody because even someone who is a few fries short of happy meal can have a moment of stunning brilliance and teach us all a life lesson.
Unfortunately, even well-meaning people will call people like Jojo “special” without realizing that what makes them unique is their ability to laugh at themselves, not the fact that they are slow. It should be painful for all of us to watch someone, like Jojo, being picked on by others, but what we too often fail to recognize is that when we see this kind of thing happening we could in fact be witnessing the slow destruction of a genuinely good hearted person and in this day and age that is a Goddamned shame. Jojo has been out of school for more than half a decade now, but old Mr. “K” still talks to him on Facebook once in a while and he writes exactly like he speaks.