Is America Spiritually Poor? Years ago, Mother Teresa, who dealt with the very poor, said that she felt sorry for Americans because we are “spiritually poor.”  This morning, I saw evidence of this as I watched the Today Show.  The story about the bus monitor being bullied by middle-school students angered me.  The poor woman, who was only trying to help the children get to school safely, was harassed by them.  The foul language and extremely rude behavior by the students is disturbing, to say the least. 

As I thought more about it, I wondered what I would do in the situation.  I am over 60, overweight and not as quick as i used to be.  What would my options be?

#1. Get off the bus.  Leaving would be an option, but does it solve the problem?  It avoids the problem temporarily.  I suppose if I found myself becoming angry and wanting to lash out at the kids, I probably would have left the bus at the next stop.  However, if I had to return to these children the next day, I wouldn’t have solved the problem.

#2. Yell at the kids and tell them to shut up.  There are so many ways that adults can get in trouble when dealing with kids these days.  Yelling at them may have spurred disciplinary action on the woman, escalating the problem rather than solving it.  In my day, if we did something wrong in school, we were disciplined by both the teacher and later, our parents.  Nowadays, children are safe from overzealous “discipline” that could border on abuse, but the pendulum has swung too far and now there is little one can do to stop a child’s poor behavior.  A person needs a lawyer by their side at all times, it seems!

#3. Pray.  Maybe this woman did some praying as she patiently waited for the abuse and bullying to end.  She may have silently prayed as they pelted obscenities at her.  What if a person were to pray aloud during a situation like this? Would it have made the children stop and think or would it have prompted even more abuse?  At any rate, I think I would have prayed aloud.  (I might have still needed my attorney later because of the rules about prayer and schools!)

#4. Try to elicit the help of the bus driver.  Where was the bus driver during all of this?  Did he or she not see what was going on? Obviously, the bus driver needs to focus on the road, but what if he or she would have known what was happening and pulled over to the side of the road?  Too often, we chose not to get involved or to avoid a situation we don’t think is our problem.  We may ignore another’s plight because it might take too much time or effort on our part to help out.  I would hope that school systems have policies and procedures for bus drivers to follow in the event there is something like this going on in the bus.

#5. Sit there and take it like this woman did.  Why did she sit there and take it?  There could be a number of reasons including the fact that she might have known these kids and their families and was giving them the benefit of the doubt.  She was dealing with “mob rule,” though.  She may have felt an obligation to complete her duties as a bus monitor.  She was a former bus driver, so she knew how kids could be, so maybe she chose to try to ignore their behavior (which she was having difficulty doing!)  She may have been so discombobulated that she wasn’t thinking straight and couldn’t come up with any other solution.

It serves no purpose to be a Monday morning quarterback and say, “What if?”  Karen Klein did the best she could in the situation and I think she was very brave.  It angers me that the children were so out of control that she had no choice but to sit there and take it.  It also saddens me that children can be so disrespectful.

Our society seems to value youth, beauty, money and perfection.  None of us have all those attributes, yet we expect others to exhibit those things in order to gain our respect and admiration.  This makes no sense!  These things are all superficial and don’t measure the value of a person.  What measures the value of a person is their compassion, their willingness to help others, their dedication to serving others, their respect for others no matter the situation.

Karen Klein was serving the community by taking on the unpleasant task of riding in a school bus full of middle-school children.  (A friend once jokingly told me that, all kids should be locked away from ages 11-15.)  It is a tough age-group where peer pressure is high and self-esteem is easily crushed.  “Mob” behavior can easily influence children this age, but that does not excuse them!  Parents need to be ever watchful and offer guidance to their children so the children have strategies they can use when coming up against mob rule.  Communities should not tolerate bad behavior, no matter the age.  Children need to have boundaries (which I can guarantee they will protest!) and rules.  The old adages like “Respect your elders” need to be taught. 

I was shocked that the children teased Karen about her hearing aids as well as her weight and age.  In this “enlightened” age, apparently, handicaps are still fair game!  One day these children may be hard of hearing, old and overweight and maybe they will look back and regret their treatment of Karen.