Installment 88

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My last day to drive a school bus was Friday March 7, 2014. My reader might recall that while working for the school district, I had been doing the work of a spare bus driver. That final week, I had been blessed to drive the same route every day, so even the driving of the route was easier.

As my days came to a close with the school district, I made notes and recorded some things into my journal.

On Monday of that week, I texted Mary, in my journal I wrote the following:

One of the elementary school students asked me ‘Why do you look like a rock star?’ [I was wearing my] black beanie, sunglasses, red outer shirt, blue jeans. I replied ‘Maybe I am.’

I am not sure why that student made that comment on that particular day because that was the attire that I had worn on many days during the winter months. But as far as I know that was the only time that type of comment ever happened, noteworthy enough that I had to share with my wife.

On Thursday of that week, I texted Mary, in my journal I wrote the following:

Just saw three students in the elementary school office walking holding/being a Chinese dragon.

This was important for me. They were doing something for the school, probably doing something getting ready for the Chinese New Year. However, Mary and I were aware that China had become part of my prayer life and I found it more than simply coincidence that it occurred during my final week. What is more is that during early 2014, I learned that a class to study Mandarin was going to be offered where we attended services.

On Friday of that week, a quote attributed to Wilhelm Von Humboldt was put on the quote-of-the-day white board: “How a person masters his fate is more important than what his fate is.” The person who put those quotes on the board was one of the dispatchers. Over the course of my tenure they and I had become friends, discussing things of life – from people to spirituality, from music to sports.

According to my journal, when I walked in that morning, that dispatcher said to me “Don’t make me cry, or I’ll kick your ass.” I knew they were playing, but still serious, because they didn’t want to cry, even though they were happy to see that I was following the Divine’s lead. Things like leaving become tough when we make friendships. But, for me, what is interesting is that during that day they let me know that they had chosen the quote-of-the-day specifically for me. Touching, is it not?

As for other events of that day, I wrote in my journal:

Many people met me, or talked with me during the day, even while I was waiting on my routes. Received lots of encouragement, hugs, and ‘good luck’ type stuff. The biggest surprise came from [another bus driver]. [They] gave me a gift of a very nice brown bonded leather journal from [a book retailer]. One of the things [they] told me was that [they] knew I wrote in journals and that [they were] giving me a new journal because I have a new book to write.

[An additional bus driver] pleasantly encouraged me, saying that I couldn’t go, that I had to stay. These are the hardest comments to respond to, but I tried to communicate that God has definitely called me away [from driving a school bus], but if he permits, then I would return. [That bus driver] seemed encouraged by that response.

Every bus required a log book, and as a spare driver I had a log book. Things like routes and whether or not any incidents occurred were recorded in the logs. For whatever reason, I also liked putting the start and end mileages in my logs.

As I gave my final log entry, I added a personal entry. Below the log entry, centered between the margins, I wrote:

In the words of
M * A * S * H
Thanks for Everything!

Later, I wrote in my journal:

I left that log book at [the] dispatch area, clipped my badge to the pages and left the building.

I left the log book for the dispatcher that I mentioned earlier, for no other reason than we had become friends. I hoped that my last words would be as sentimental as the words used to close out the television series of M*A*S*H.

That dispatcher helped navigate me through many difficult things as I transitioned out of pulpit ministry. They were a sounding board, and encouragement. At several key moments, they told me to step up to the plate because I could be more and do more. In many ways, they were a key component of helping me find the personal confidence that I lost during pulpit ministry. Because of things like that, that dispatcher means a tremendous amount to me.

Later, In my journal, I wrote:

Weird really. I have been fired/let go from so many jobs, or walked away from unfulfilling work, that when I left the [bus] terminal, while I really never cared for the work, I tried to give it my best [just as I have always done in my work], to be at work on time, every time, without fail, and perform my job to the best of my ability, some days were far better than others. But to testify to how little [scheduled work days I missed], I missed perhaps two, maybe three, work days in three years, I had accrued over 110 hours of sick leave. That is quite a bit of time, time that if never used, is lost upon retirement or resignation, not something easily done, for I was tempted to take the time during my last two weeks, but didn’t, doing so simply would violate my character.

Look, don’t get me wrong, there were times I hated work – the early hours, some of the routes, the rudeness of administrators and teachers, and other things. … [But] I tried to stay focused that God would release me when it was time. In all, it was good that I was there, but that did not make all things pleasant, but I did strive to be faithful and hardworking.

As I wrote elsewhere in that journal entry about my departure, “I remember coming to the understanding that God through his Spirit would let me know when I could quit being a school bus driver. The days, weeks, months, years, came and went. I, at times, grew weary of waiting.” But there it was, happening, almost exactly three years after I began working as a school bus driver.

For me, my departure from school bus driving was such a contrast to when I left the pulpit ministry in Indiana. In pulpit ministry, it was more than growing weary of waiting, I was truly frustrated with the developments of the church, and those developments bothered me in ways that I did not address while in pulpit ministry.

When departing pulpit ministry, I was far more concerned about the development and stabilization of individuals and families who truly did not want what happened. To me, they were the fallout. As such, my closing days in that work were filled with emotional tension that I didn’t express, because I believed it best to maintain composure for their benefit. In all, I believe that was proper.

But when I returned to Texas, I let out all that anger and frustration, and it dissipated over the three-year tenure in an occupation that would challenge me further. It was to my betterment, but there were times it was difficult to see that.

However, upon leaving the work as a school bus driver, I found myself thankful, thankful in ways that eluded me when exiting the pulpit. When I left school bus driving, I also found myself confident about things, even though I would wind up spending every month from that month through December 2015 finding a way to come to terms with my new self.

Returning to my departure, the last day of school bus driving, March 07, 2014, I posted this to Facebook:
“I am closing out a strange day. Today was my last day as a school bus driver.

“In some ways, I am pleased the day unfolded as it did, had I gone home after my morning route, it would have been difficult to return. However, the work hours, the routes (morning and afternoon), and the midday of bus wash kept me busy.

“Said goodbyes to many people, received lots of encouragement, even received a special gift (a journal because I write). The giver told me I was given the journal because I have a new book to write, that story is about to unfold. Spent the last few moments of the day chatting and listening to Van Halen with a very close coworker.

“I want to close with the following. The last few years were powerful. I went in angry and depressed, navigated troubled waters to learn who I am and accept myself, left with a smile on my face and song in my heart. My family, my friends and my fellow coworkers helped me and for that I will always be thankful. Blessings to you all. Thank you.”

In my journal, writing about my closing days at the school district, I recorded the following quote-of-the-day, from February 13, 2014:

Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.
~ Erich Fromm

That is important to me because of the timing. It was right around Valentine’s Day 2014, but prior to my departure from the school district.

I want my reader to consider what is being expressed. That is exactly what I believed I was doing. At that moment, over two years ago, even though I was not completely prepared, I acted on faith to leave the work force, to lead a life of greater love.

With that in mind, my journal conveys that on March 9, 2014, I posted the following to Facebook:
“The horizon. It has been identified. Love in the most incredible way.”

The horizon I was referencing was my marriage with two wives. That horizon has not yet occurred, even though I really thought it was to occur back then, which is why on March 10, 2014, I shared someone else’s post on Facebook:
“The difference between those people ‘living their potential’ and those who don’t, is not the amount of potential itself, but the amount of permission they give themselves to live in the present. – Marianne Williamson”

Back in 2014 that is what I truly believed I was doing, arriving at the ability to live up to my potential, by giving myself permission. Nope. That permission wouldn’t arrive until January 2016, making all the months from March 2014 to December 2015 an interesting challenge in how I viewed myself.

One final thing before I close out this installment. Immediately following my departure from driving a school bus, the classes for learning Mandarin would begin. The class was supposed to begin prior to Spring Break, which meant that the class would have begun prior to me stepping away from driving.

However, the instructor determined that it would be better to wait. From my notes, class began on March 20, 2014. We studied introductory parts to Mandarin, and learned about China and parts of the culture through our instructors, who themselves were from Asia.

Although we would take periodic breaks from having class, on average, we met once per month until our final class in November 2015. I am not certain that I can actually speak Mandarin, but I am certain that it was worth my time.

In light of all of my prayers and the leading I had received, like in Installment 58 where I learned my heart was in China, I interpreted my departure from driving and my enrollment in Mandarin as bringing me closer to the next part of my life.

I still believe that China is in my future. But like two wives being part of my future, I simply believe it will occur, not knowing when. Until then, I look forward to both, it seems like it will be an exciting journey.

Blessings and Shalom