I started the eighth grade in Monterrey, Mexico. My brother Jay was in the third grade and Dale was in the second grade. Our school was located downtown near La Purisima Catholic Church which was a local landmark. Our home was located in the suburb of Colonia Vista Hermosa, some distance away.
My father was a building supervisor and his work required him to be frequently absent from home. My mother, although she had a Mexican driver license, didn’t feel competent to take on the wild and wooly traffic that thrived in that industrial metropolis. The school at the time did not provide transportation so it was pretty much up to us to get there. That meant using the infamous local bus system.
In 1957 most buses in Monterrey consisted primarily of what now would be considered ancient, run-down, worn out school-type buses. They had bald tires, rusted out frames, standard transmissions and were not shy about emitting grey clouds of smoke through noisy, loose mufflers. They tended to lean to one side because many of their patrons were forced to hang on to the outside of the overcrowded human transports as they bounced over the rutted and pot-hole filled streets.
Now, the start time of school coincided with most people’s need to be at work. If we failed to get an early start, which was often the case, we were the ones required to hang on to the outside of the bus. It was a wild ride but we got used to the challenge as the school year progressed. Besides, the ride home was usually a little more civilized since school let out before most folks got off work.
On one cold, winter morning we felt fortunate to get a seat located over the rear wheels. Because of the hump over the wheel well, our knees were drawn up under our chins. After years of use and abuse the metal over the wheels had rusted through. It was a rainy day and the pot-holes were filled with muddy, mucky water. When we got to our stop, there was a wet, yucky brown stain from my shoes, up my mid-section, and along one side of my face and into my hair. My brothers, who shared the seat with me, didn’t fare any better. We weren’t able to abandon the seat because the bus was too crowded. Our fellow students at school were, to say the least, amused at our appearance as we trudged into class that day.
As I look back, I don’t remember complaining about our plight or feeling unloved or abused by negligent parents. I guess we didn’t know any better. It was just the way things were.
Sometimes our journey through life seems to have us hanging on for dear life to the outside of the bus. Things don’t always go the way we think they should. No matter who we are or whatever our circumstances, we have to pass through trials and tribulations of one kind or another.
I recently read an article by Karen Paul in which she described some tough times in her life that resulted in her turning to alcohol and drugs to escape the anger that welled up inside her. At age 16 the message of some missionaries led to fundamental changes in her life but the transition wasn’t easy. Someone handed her a card that read, “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
I think the rope represents life and by failing to be proactive in making good decisions, we let life slip through our fingers. Karen tied that knot and held on. She finished high school, took correspondence courses, worked several jobs, and paid her own tuition, fees, books, clothes, and room and board. Today she is a happily married social worker with four children who finds joy in serving others in her church and community.
(Ensign Magazine, August 2010, page 80)
It wasn’t easy hanging on to the outside of that bus in order to get to school, but I’m glad we did.
Now, given today’s environment, I wouldn’t want to send my children or grandchildren off to school hanging on to the outside of a bus. They won’t need that-- they’ll find plenty of trials and tribulations of their own enough to test their mettle.
Whatever the test, the main thing is to grab hold and to hang on for dear life.