Oxford Strong. We’ve seen this phrase a lot the last couple of years… Adorning front yards, in the windows of shops and restaurants downtown, on tee shirts and stickers. Since the tragedy at Oxford High School on November 30, 2021 we’ve been inundated with messages of Oxford Strong. But what does it even mean?
My son, Evan, is a student at the Early Childhood Special Education preschool at Leonard Elementary School. His world has been rocked this past month. Like the majority of our children he misses school, misses his peers, and misses his routine. One thing he misses that’s unique just to him is our school buses.
Since Evan was able to push his red plush armchair to our front window and climb up he’s been watching our entire fleet of school buses pass by on their way to the high school each day. Every morning he’d leave his breakfast to watch them safely deliver students to the high school and in the afternoon he’d watch buses full of middle schoolers go past to pick up their high school friends.
His little face in our front window gathered attention from a few observant drivers and he’d always get a wave or a honk through the years. This school year we trusted him and his little sister to stay in our yard so we ventured out to the front lawn to watch them drive by each day.
“Mama! It’s my buses!”
He’d jump and dance and clap and wave. More drivers took notice, the middle school students started paying attention, and a new tradition was born.
We made signs, we hired Yard Card 4 U to put out signs in the front yard thanking our buses and displaying lyrics to songs and nursery rhymes. The buses honked, the kids and drivers would wave, some opened their windows and sang songs. It was wholesome and it was pure. All these drivers and young teenagers forged this amazing bond with my children and it was the highlight of their day.
When our schools closed December 1 Evan asked daily about school. But multiple times per day he asked about his buses. His fourth birthday was quickly approaching and the night before I received a call from one of our drivers asking if we’d be home the next day.
Thursday, December 16 the buses were transporting our high school students to a special event at the Legacy Center. Upon discovering Evan’s birthday was the same day they got permission to reroute their path so they could drive past our house and give him a bus parade. My son, after weeks of confusion and sadness, was able to go out onto our front lawn and jump and dance and clap and wave to a parade of buses who were there just for him. Just. For. Him.
That afternoon his bus driver, Ms Sue, stopped by our house. The drivers had collected money and brought birthday and Christmas gifts for my children. They had cards signed by all the drivers with kind messages. There were puzzles and coloring books, stuffed animals and toy trucks, candy and crayons.
It was incredible. The gesture along was moving but the extra effort, kindness and generosity shown was just mind blowing.
When I see Oxford Strong plastered around town I don’t think of the tragedy that rattled our community the last day of November or the pandemic that started it all. I think of the acts of kindness and generosity that have been a staple of our community for as long as I have lived here.
And every time I see a big yellow school bus I remember that kindness breeds kindness and that if we all make more room for love in our hearts we can all be a little more Oxford Strong.