Tale of a Tattler

I’m a school bus driver. Our district has a “no eating “rule on the buses. Mostly, to protect those children with food allergies from a medical emergency while they are in transit. It also helps deters bees and wasps from coming onto the bus looking for sweet treats in the garbage.

On this particular day, a kindergartner tattled on a friend for eating candy on the bus. The candy was a large lollipop. I gently asked the little boy to either throw it away or put back in the wrapper for later. School buses now-a-days have high backed seats. You can’t see anything that is going on in the seats which makes enforcing the “no eating” policy extremely difficult. I’ve adapted a strategy of intentional listening (it sounds better than eavesdropping) on conversations that light up my misbehavior radar.

I can hear a quiet exchange of indiscernible words between the tattled on and the tattler. Within a few seconds, the tattler had another tale to tell, “He’s still eating his candy, Bus Driver!” I now resort to pleading. “Please, put the candy away. You know eating isn’t allowed on the bus”.

That’s when I hear the rule breaker speak up. In a loud, deliberate voice directed at the tattler he says, “For the last time, I’m not eating. I’m LICKING!”

I can’t help but bust into a big smile. Good one! I’m admiring his manipulation skills with a limited vocabulary while at the same time leaving the tattler tongue tied. Then the pure innocents of the situation revealed a profound truth.

We all know we should talk less and listen more. This experience taught me what we should be listening for—meaning. The meaning given to words is defined by the speaker. If we are not giving our complete attention to listening, talking is meaningless.