It’s easy to forget that we are constantly given opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others, especially at our jobs.
Some people focus solely on money when choosing an occupation. Others, like Curtis Jenkins of Dallas, Texas, find life’s true value in other ways. For Curtis, forging a loving and trusting relationship with the kids he drives to and from Lake Highlands Elementary is worth more than any paycheck.
Not only does Curtis know every child’s name, address, and favorite hobby, he also assigns them each a duty for their commute on the bus each day. Curtis believes that giving each kid a job to do keeps his “community” running smoothly. Some children are given the role of police officer, others are administrators and assistants, and so on. Using this method, all of the kids who ride Curtis’s bus know how they’re expected to behave and do so out of respect for the driver and each other.
“These are my children,” Curtis said. “These are my community. I love ’em all.”
After the kids have boarded the bus Curtis often takes to the microphone to remind them of the house rules. “We’re going to care about each other and we’re going to love everybody, right?” Curtis asks and is immediately answered by a chorus of cheerful “yeses.”
School principal Emily Gruninger says that the way Curtis connects with the students is unprecedented. He’s also making a noticeable difference in these kids’ lives. “He goes way beyond the outline responsibilities and duties of a bus driver. I mean, that bus is like a family,” she said.
Curtis treats the students like family off the bus, too. He has spent thousands of dollars of his own money on gifts for the kids, each one personally selected to suit their interests and wishes. He gave one little girl a tee-shirt with a picture from a book she’d made simply because he wanted to encourage her towards her creative pursuits.
“I’m hoping this T-shirt inspires her to keep on writing books,” he said. “I put time, effort, love and care – understanding each and every one of those kids.”
Over the years Curtis has also stepped up with presents for kids’ birthdays and even turkeys at Thanksgiving. He has gifted bicycles to kids whose families couldn’t afford one, backpacks, and even gift cards. Yet it’s not the presents that the kids think of when they’re asked why they love Curtis; it’s how he makes them feel.
“He really cares about us,” said one child. “He’s really kind,” added another. Yet it was one comment by Ethan Ingle, a fifth grader, that really brings home the fact that Curtis is sometimes the only positive male role model in their lives. For kids like Ethan the bus ride home is the best part of his entire day.
“And he helps anyone in need,” Ethan. “My mom got divorced when I was only 4. He’s the father that I always wanted. In some ways, I wish my dad could have been like that.”
For Curtis, it’s remarks like Ethan’s that make his efforts to connect with this group of kids worthwhile. “That’s the paycheck right there. If I can get that, you can keep the money,” he said with tears in his eyes.
Curtis is living proof that you don’t need money or power to make a difference! Sometimes simple kindness and compassion is all it takes to let others know that you’re on their side. Let’s all do our part to be the goodness in someone else’s day.
Watch the video below to see Curtis in action and be sure to share.
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