By Patty Mooney
It’s been many years since I have had to stand on the end of Pusheck Road in Bellwood, a suburb of Chicago, waiting for the school bus, and yet I remember one special day as though it were yesterday.
It was the Spring of 1963, and I was attending second grade at St. Simeon’s Elementary School. Every morning my mom would pack up a bagged lunch for me, usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with an apple for dessert.
On this particular day when I reached the corner, I set my lunch down on the sidewalk in order to shift my school books to a more comfortable position in my arms (these were pre-backpack times!) By the time the school bus lurched to a halt before me, I had forgotten all about my lunch and stepped aboard, leaving my brown bag behind.
By the time I realized my lunch was missing, we were already pulling in to the school parking lot. I started to cry. The bus driver, whose name I have since forgotten, asked me, “What’s wrong?”
I spilled my story about having left my lunch back at the bus stop. He patted me on the shoulder and said, “Don’t you worry about a thing.” I wiped my tears with the back of my hand, and looked at him doubtfully. After all, what could he do? The school bell started to jangle and I hurried on to class.
I was involved in coloring in an outline of Lincoln’s head — bright green — when the school secretary arrived at the door of our classroom. She handed the teacher something in a small brown paper sack.
After the secretary departed, the teacher walked over to me carrying the sack. With a note of surprise, she said, “This is for you from the bus driver!” It was not the same bag my mother had sent me off to school with. It was just about time for lunch, and I could not wait to look inside.
To this day, I still remember the wonders that lay inside that special package: a deviled ham salad sandwich, an orange, and two chocolate chip cookies. At the time, I didn’t put two and two together, but later I realized the driver had given me his own lunch. He had seen the angst of a little girl in a plaid uniform, and reacted to save her. He had selflessly shared his affection for deviled ham! For 40 years I have been grateful for his kindness.