Who’d have thought that a bumpy ride on a school bus would be such an exciting concept for a few kids? In retrospect, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the bus ride itself that we looked forward to. Rather, we were excited about who was driving.
My grandfather, whom we called Gramps, would volunteer to be in the rotation to drive Central Baptist Church’s bus after the 11 a.m. service. Of course, this bus wasn’t just for people who wanted a free ride home from church.
Once the service let out, church members with various mental and physical disabilities would board the worn, oddly colored bus so Gramps could drive them home.
Once we were old enough, when my siblings and I were in town on a Sunday he was set to drive, he’d invite us to ride along. Usually, the passengers would get on before us. The bus would be waiting for us on 7th Street when we’d walk out of the doors on the east side of the sanctuary.
Gramps always told us that the back rows were the bumpiest (especially on the several cobblestone streets of Quincy, Illinois). Evidently, this was exciting to us. To the back of the bus we’d go.
As we walked down the aisle by all the passengers, those who could speak well would always say, “Aww, aren’t they cute?” or “You’re a handsome fellow, aren’t you?” After making sure everyone was safely aboard, Gramps would shut the door and take his seat behind the wheel. “Hey, Dave!” several of them would exclaim. “You’ve got some cute grandkids, Dave.”
Then, in ones, twos and threes, he’d drop them off at their homes. We’d drive back to the church, lock up the bus and head home for lunch.
Maybe he knew it, and maybe he didn’t, but Gramps was giving us a valuable lesson I wouldn’t realize until years after he died.
Whether you can communicate well or not, whether you can drive or not, whether your life is dependent on others or not, you have inestimable value. The people on that bus were dependent on Gramps and many others not just to thrive, but to survive.
I learned that your worth isn’t determined by your ability, nor does your intelligence or skill limit the impact you can have on other people. How much less, then, must the color of your skin or your country of origin dictate your worth?
I agree with Nelson Mandela’s assertion that hate is often taught, but I also believe there are defining moments in our lives that teach us about respect, kindness and acceptance.
For me, it wasn’t a statement by a university administration. It wasn’t a rally. It wasn’t even a small group discussion. From then until the day I die, what cemented into my mind the unwavering belief that all human beings bear the image of God, have rights and deserve respect was instead an act of volunteerism and selflessness by someone I deeply love.
It’s true: the types of people who disagree with the purpose behind events like KSUnite will not attend them, or perhaps attend them in contempt. In fact, those who propagate hate in our community are likely head over heels that their actions have caused the first non-weather-related, university-wide class cancellation in 101 years. This is exactly the attention they seek to stir up.
That’s not to say that the content of this week’s inclusion event wasn’t noble or true. It was both of those things. Truthfully, it was wonderful.
But, in the long term, will it change our campus climate? It will not. Will it attract and change the minds of those who are hateful in our community? It will not. Its impact will be limited to those who already agree with its premise, and if we’re honest, it’s great for university public relations. The sense of togetherness it may have fostered amongst those who attended will fade back to normalcy.
What will change our community for the better? I have no cut-and-dry solution.
I do know this: our greatest opportunities to combat hate don’t arise when everyone’s looking (i.e. a rally), they arise when no one’s looking. Our everyday interactions with everyone we encounter must be reflective of our expressed dedication to respect and kindness. It’s the small things, I think, that we must strive to do better at, despite their lack of fanfare and grandeur.
We really just need to be nicer to each other, all the time.
I don’t claim that this will solve all our problems. I also know that I’ll fail at it every day. But I’m going to try my best, and if you’ll try with me, we might just preserve this great family of ours.
I hope you enjoyed the rally, but it’s not going to do much. That burden is mine and yours to bear.
Evan Steckler is a senior in architectural engineering and event coordinator for the College Republicans at Kansas State. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.