• Carrie Kendon (Sanders)

Beauty and Grace: Lessons from Grammie #4

After waiting on the stone boulders at the bottom of Nellie Hill near Grammie's house like every other morning, I climbed up the elementary school bus steps expecting to see the same handful of kids I was used to seeing. This specific day, however, a new person was sitting in one of the front left seats. I had never seen this person before or if I had, I had never seen this person like this. I froze. Anxiety overcame me, and my face began to heat quickly. My heart beat as if it were in my throat and I ran. I literally ran down the steps, off the bus, and across the lawn back toward the house. I fell on my way up the cement walkway and tore a hole in my pants. Before I knew it, I was entering in the back door crying to my Grandmother that I could not go back on the bus. I did not tell her why. She did not ask. She drove me to school. 

     The next morning, I stalled. I said my stomach hurt. I said I couldn't find my shoes. I did everything I could to miss the school bus again. When Grammie told me that I had "better get a move on or I would miss the bus" I begged her to drive me to school again. 

She said, "I will drive you to school every morning for the rest of school year..." 

Did she just say, "every day"? My heart leapt. 

Did she just say that? I am sure I was smiling like a crazy person. 

Did that really happen? The thoughts spun so quickly, I hadn't even allowed her to finish her sentence. 

"I will drive you to school every morning for the rest of the school year... if you get on the bus today and sit next to that little girl". 

What? She knew! How?

The bus driver may have told her. 

The school may have called. 

The girl's mom ... oh no!... what if the girl's mom called? 

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO", I thought! "I can't!".

But Grammie had that look in her eye and I knew there was no changing her mind. I would be on that bus today whether I liked it or not. So, I said, "fine".

Grammie then spent the next few minutes explaining to me that the girl on the bus was caught a house fire. She had lost a loved on in the tragedy and almost lost her own life. She had been in the hospital for a long period of time and that previous day was the first day she was allowed back at school. She looked so different because she had to wear a special mask and hood covering her head, face and neck to protect the new skin that had formed. I was ashamed. I was a kid that had never been exposed to those harsh realities of this world, and I am penitent to this day about how I reacted. The knowledge of what happened to Tary* softened my heart just enough to allow me to get on the bus and sit next to her as instructed. I didn't say a word. She didn't say a word. I wish I could tell you that Tary and I instantly became friends and we sat next to one another every day for the rest of the school year, but that wasn't how the story continues. 

     My grandmother kept her promise and drove me to school the rest of the school year. I loved being able to leave later than normal and being with her a few more minutes. I don't think she asked me to ride the bus again that school year and I rarely saw Tary at school.

     A number of months later, Grammie brought me to Sunday School like she had many times before. I marched up the steps to the second floor of the church and swung open the door. Right in front of me sat none other than Tary, the girl from the bus. She didn't have to wear the hood any more, but there was no mistaking who she was. Our eyes met and she smiled. I sat across from her and we worked on our lessons together. She remembered that I sat next to her on the bus and she smiled again. Tary was a witty girl with a contagious laugh. We had fun.

     My Grammie taught me a lesson I can barely put into words. She pushed me out of my comfort zone by making me confront outward differences. In doing so, she set me up to truly learn that real beauty is what is on the inside.  I do not recall seeing Tary another time. I honestly do not know where she is now. I will always remember her eyes and how she remembered that I sat next to her on the bus. And I will always remember that she did not mention the horrible way I had acted that first day she rode the bus. Tary had every right to walk away from that Sunday school table. To not speak to me. To refuse to sit with me. But she did the exact opposite. She showed me grace. 

*name changed

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