When I was younger, I would ride the school bus for 1 hour every morning and afternoon. Our bus would travel from the Hawkesbury Valley, up a winding mountain to Warrimmoo in the Blue Mountains. I can still remember the smell of the gasoline, the loud roar of the engine, the cold plastic seats and the fogged up windows either from the cold of winter or the steam of summer. There were about 30 kids who would ride that bus each day and I was the one sitting alone near the front.
There was a boy on our bus who had come into our school and into my life in the 4th grade and had literally made my life hell. His name was Andrew. It seemed to be Andrew’s life mission to knock me off my feet and make sure I stayed flat on the ground. I don’t really know what caused Andrew to have such dislike for me. It could have been my outgoing nature, he may have felt threatened by my stunning good looks, or maybe (more likely) I said something weird and awkward to him and he just plain didn’t like it. So, I would spend 2 hours every day (and 7 hours at school in between), avoiding Andrew and his ever growing group of followers, many of whom were also on board my school bus.
Keeping to myself, being a “loner” was not something I’d chosen. Andrew had tapped into something that would keep me down, Andrew had made me feel afraid and alone. Afraid to speak up, afraid to be seen, afraid of what people thought, afraid to make friends. I was excluded, sad, broken and very insecure.
In 1991, a new girl came to our school… Olivia. She too was from the Hawkesbury Valley, so I began to see her onboard our bus headed up the windy mountain each day. She was beautiful and kind, and full of purpose and future. There was something special about her. It was as though she had a secret to succeeding in life. I know all this because I had become a pro at eves dropping on all her conversations, I actually never spoke to her… because, well, I was afraid and alone… but not for long.
One afternoon as the bus pulled out of school headed back down the windy mountain to take us home, I felt an unfamiliar bump on the seat alongside me. I pressed my shoulder up against the window and looked back to find a kind face and sweet voice proudly say to me “Hi, I’m Olivia”. And that was that… we became friends.
How things felt better for me, just because Olivia was around. Every day, for weeks, she sat with me. She would listen and we would laugh and talk about life and our dreams. Olivia would talk about her church… wow, with such love and passion. I wished I could go to a church like that and love it like she did. I realized this was what was so special about her.
One day, as the bus approached Olivia’s stop, she gathered her things and glancing back at me, asked quickly and in a sprightly voice … 5 simple words…
“Wanna come to my church?”
Devoted Devotional By Marleis Scharfe