We have all heard a million catch phrases accentuating the day-to-day activities that make us similar as human beings. “She ties her shoelaces the same way as everyone else,” or “He puts his pants on one leg at a time just like you and I.” These maxims allay our fears and uneasiness about others and remind us that, despite our differences, we all have a lot in common. But what if you couldn’t relate to simple concepts such as dressing yourself, brushing your own teeth, taking a walk or eating a sandwich?
In his article titled “Riding With Jordan” beginning on pg. 20, Assistant Editor Thomas McMahon offers us a glimpse of what it would be like to live without the physical ability to take care of ourselves. Jordan Forster, the story’s heroine, is a 5-year-old who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. Despite having above average intelligence for a child her age, Jordan’s muscle makeup is so weak that she is unable to chew or swallow food.
Based on observations made by Thomas after spending a school day with Jordan, the article gives an almost minute-by-minute account of the struggle that is Jordan’s daily life. Aside from the grit and determination of Jordan and her family, one of the story’s lasting impressions is that it takes the sum of many people’s labors — teachers, assistants, nurses and bus drivers — to give Jordan a legitimate chance to pursue a happy, and somewhat normal, path to education.
Keeping things in perspective
From the bus stop to school and back again, Thomas makes many other eye-opening discoveries about the young student’s plight. Frankly, most of her problems make perfect sense. For instance, it isn’t surprising that someone with muscular dystrophy would be visibly exhausted after even a short day of classes. But, distracted by the repetitive set of routines that our lives can become, we sometimes forget how fortunate we are. We forget that there are people out there who literally have to strive for every inch they move. When we see or read about the state of affairs for someone like Jordan, even the parts that make sense feel like humbling revelations.
Nevertheless, it’s important that we face the reality of every situation, in both our personal and professional lives. It’s natural to feel sorry for a student with special needs akin to Jordan’s. But children don’t need our pity half as much as they need our commitment to working hard so that they all may receive an equal opportunity.
Faced with the daunting task of getting so many kids to school safely each day, transportation professionals must constantly remember the goal they are working toward. Even when transporting only one child requires the yeomen effort of multiple individuals, Jordan proves that it’s worth it.
Applying Jordan’s story to your job
Just as we may take our health, our families, our freedom or our jobs for granted, many people likewise view the safety and efficiency of school transportation as a given. The remarkable success of the school bus is enough for them. Very few outside the confines of the bus yard question where that success comes from. Yet those of us “in the know” realize that the exceptional record of this industry is a result of the dedication of a great many people.
Success by itself makes a great story. But the moral here is that success is not guaranteed. Especially not in school transportation, where millions of lives are potentially on the line every day, and a great many futures are influenced. If you aren’t sure what I mean, read Thomas’ article...and put yourself in Jordan’s shoes. That can motivate us all to work a little harder.
Leading Off appears this issue in place of Editor’s Note. Steve Hirano’s regular column will return next issue.