Ray of hope Man bites dog? No, this was 'students feed bus drivers.'

February 02, 1996

A FREQUENT COMPLAINT about newspapers is that they focus only on the negative and the dramatic, while ordinary good deeds go unreported and unheralded. While that's not entirely true -- stories about teen-agers winning scholarships and volunteers helping senior citizens are tucked into newspapers, including this one, nearly every day -- those who are doing things right do get "poorer play," to use an old newspaper term, than the losers who rob banks, hijack subway cars or screw up the government.

News is exceptions; as long as more pilots are flying their planes safely than crashing them, you'll never see a front-page story announcing that 100 jets landed safely yesterday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. But while good news does not make great journalism, people ought to know that generosity, thoughtfulness and competence not only exist, but actually are commonplace in most places. An unnecessarily dour and cynical view of our communities is just as dangerous as burying one's head in the sand. We need to know that neighbors still shovel each other's walks, that there's such a thing as an honest politician, that more kids are working after-school jobs to put themselves through college than carrying guns to class.

Just Wednesday, a bunch of sixth- , seventh- and eighth-graders at Old Mill Middle School South -- kids at an age many adults tend to write off as awkward, obnoxious or self-centered -- treated their bus drivers to a buffet breakfast. Here were 11- and 12-year-olds talking about how they wanted to do something nice for the ladies and gentlemen who get them safely to school each day; how they appreciate how hard it must be to drive a bus filled with noisy kids; how they try their best "to sit in the back and shut up" to make the drivers' job easier. Here were school administrators teaching thoughtfulness and respect. And here were 21 bus drivers who clearly don't share the often heard sentiment about kids today being disrespectful and headed for disaster. A "precious commodity," the drivers called them.

Truth be told, the bus drivers breakfast isn't the kind of story reporters fight over. But it is the kind of story that offers hope and reassurance.

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