“OK, class. We have a special project for next week. I want you to ask one of your parents or someone close to you to come in next Friday to share with us what they do for work.”
Miss Cassidy smiled as the noise level in her class elevated. This was always one of her favorite projects teaching third grade, and it delighted her to see how it excited the class. Over the shrill of jumbled voices, she said, “I’m sending this handout for you to give to the person you choose. It tells when we need them and what will happen. All right, kids, see you on Monday.”
The kids lined up haphazardly to receive their handouts from Miss Cassidy, squealing with joy over who they would pick and what they do. Adam Harris grabbed his sheet and ran out the door into the playground. He knew who he was going to pick, and he couldn’t wait until he got home so he could ask him.
Behind him Billy Wexler, the class bully, bolted out shrieking like a madman. He ran up to Adam and pulled his handout sheet from the middle of the bags and papers he balanced in his arms, upsetting the whole pile. Snickering, Billy watched as Adam bent to retrieve his things. “Who you gonna ask, A-dumb?” A few of the other kids gathered around them, watching the commotion with curiosity.
Adam collected his scattered possessions, a smile coming to his face at Billy’s question. “I’m gonna ask my dad,” he said. “He’s a hero.” A pint-sized smirk crept across his face into a full-blown grin.
“He ain’t no hero. He’s just a dumb ol’ truck driver.” Roaring with laughter at his own joke, Billy danced around the circle of children. “Dumb, dumb, dumb ol’ truck driver.” Other children joined in the chant. “Dumb, dumb, dumb ol’ truck driver,” they sang.
Adam’s mother had taught him the old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” He didn’t like, however, the fact that they were putting down his father. That was something he just couldn’t take. Putting into it everything he could muster, he gave Billy Wexler a shove that sent him sailing through the band of children. The horrified look on his face gave Adam only a modicum of pleasure for he knew that fighting was not the answer. He just wasn’t going to stand there while Billy said such horrible things about his dad. In Adam’s mind his father was Superman, Spiderman and Inspector Gadget all rolled into one.
Pulling himself up from his humiliation, Billy struggled to hold back tears. “You! You are going to be in big trouble. I’m telling!” Off he stumbled in the direction of the school. Left with nothing more to look at, the other children wandered off in various directions.
Adam, head hung low, scooped up his things and headed toward home. He felt ashamed for what he had done. Billy had more than deserved what was dished out to him, and Adam would do it again should the need arise. There was just something about what had transpired that made him lose his enthusiasm in the impending class project. Would the other kids think that his dad was just a dumb truck driver? He had ridden along with his dad plenty of times on weekends and school vacations. Adam was just a kid, but he could see how difficult the job could be sometimes. He’d listened to numerous stories told about treacherous icy roads, other vehicles driving crazily and deadly accidents seen along his father’s travels. The job was rough, Adam knew, but would the other kids see it that way, too? Walking home slower than usual, he reconsidered asking his father to come talk to his class.
There in the driveway welcoming Adam home was his father’s gleaming white Freightliner. All polished up, the chrome sparkled in the hot sun. Adam loved that truck almost as much as his dad did. He’d spent plenty of time squatting beside the big man, rag in hand, rubbing and wiping until each surface shined. He stood there looking up at the truck, still contemplating his decision, as his father came out of the house.
“Hey, sport. How was school today?” As his dad lifted Adam off his feet and twirled him in the air, the boy couldn’t help but smile at this man he loved more than life itself. “What’s all this stuff?” He set Adam back on his feet, checking the lunch bag for leftovers. Digging out an apple and biting into it, he glimpsed the sheet of paper on top. “Ooooh, what’s this? Career day. You gonna ask Mom to go and tell about how she makes the best peanut butter cookies in the world?”
Adam laughed at the thought of his mother standing before his class wearing her pink flowered apron, spatula in her hand. “Nah, all the kids got moms. I mean, Mom’s great, but