Beyond the Usual Thank You

At the time, I had been a youth pastor for about nine years working with middle school and high school students. Over the years, we often rented coach buses to transport our youth group around Grand Rapids or around the country. I was tired of paying someone else to drive us around and I thought it would be a lot of fun to get my commercial drivers license so that I could drive the buses.

The first time I drove a 50-passenger bus the students were a bit surprised that I, and not some highly-trained professional, was behind the wheel. Fortunately, everything went well and I safely dropped our students off at our first stop. Then something happened that surprised me – almost every student said thanks or thank you to me as they got off the bus. It was not surprising because I had a youth group of ungrateful, ill mannered students, but it struck me because I had never been thanked that much by our students in my entire career.

I organized events, facilitated small groups, gave talks, took students out for lunch, led mission trips, planned camps, etc. I poured myself into our students and did my best to encourage their spiritual, emotional, and relational development. I would occasionally receive thanks from a student or a parent in recognition of my efforts, but it was not something I expected to hear a lot.

But now, suddenly, I received words of thanks from almost every one of our students every time we stopped!

I know, I know, these weren’t heartfelt words of gratitude from our students, but they had been reminded time and again over the years to “remember to thank the bus driver”. Now I just happened to be the guy in that seat.

I think parents and teachers generally do a great job teaching kids to say thank you when someone:

-gives them food
-holds the door open for them
-picks up something they dropped
-compliments them
-gives them a gift

It is important for kids to learn manners and kids must not neglect their responsibility to say thank you. That being said, I think we can often do a better job reminding kids to say thanks to those who have invested in their lives. These long-term relationships often don’t lend themselves to a specific, obvious time for a thank you. We need to help kids to see that they need to take opportunities to thank people who are investing in them, rather than waiting for the opportunity to naturally arise.

While I don’t want to understate the importance of bus drivers who keep our kids safe, think about which adults are truly investing your kids. Are your kids thanking them? Whether its a coach, teacher, instructor, small group leader, grandparent, mentor or neighbor, is it time your child thank them for their efforts?

I appreciated 50 students saying thanks as they got off the bus. But I will tell you that I cherished times that students said, “thanks for leading our small group this year, it was a great group”; “thanks for your talk tonight, that was really encouraging”; or “thanks for planning this mission trip, it was a great opportunity for me to serve others”.

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