By Jamie Shafer
When Tina Chance initially shared her plans with friends, they laughed in surprise and made remarks about her disdain for early morning hours. “I’m not a morning person,” she admits with a smile. “And I was never that person who would watch everyone’s kids. I just feel this is what I am supposed to be doing.”
Tina and her husband, Brent, have spent years as entrepreneurs. They worked together in their own appraisal business and later Tina began helping others clear the clutter by starting her own professional organization business. But like many small business owners in a tough economy, the couple faced some financial challenges and both began looking for ways to supplement their income to provide for their family of four.
As Tina explored options, she struggled with the idea of working long hours only to exchange her earnings with a childcare provider. She knew a few individuals who were school bus drivers and liked it. As she prayed about it, she sensed the Lord was telling her to pursue the idea. It was a proud moment when she received her license in October 2011. Then it became a question of her route placement.
Facing a Challenge
Chance was hoping to avoid one busy four-lane road in the Hamilton Southeastern school district in Fishers, Indiana, referring to it as “Indy 500 in the morning.” Perhaps the only thing more frightening would be a bus filled with high school students. When Chance got word that she had been assigned to that road with high school students, she says she was scared to death. Once again, she prayed and trusted the Lord.
Two days after starting her new adventure, Chance became ill and was “under the weather” during the first six weeks she drove the route. But she didn’t opt for sick days. “The kids had had seven different drivers and needed some consistency. They wanted someone they could count on and I wanted to be that person,” she remembers.
Even in the midst of the early mornings and not feeling her best, she was determined to connect with the students. “I made it a point to know their names and show them I was making an investment in them. I wanted to let them know I cared and tried to be on their level when they were talking to me.”
Chance now interacts daily with about 30 high school students and 42 elementary students on her route. Her early fears have subsided. “With the high school kids, I have to be firm. I can see that they have improved their behavior based on my response. They talk to me and engage me in conversation. I’m very invested in what’s going on in their daily lives.
“The elementary kids write me notes and give me hugs. They say they miss me on the weekend,” she shares with a smile. In addition to her students, Chance has received positive comments from leaders in the school district and parents who are thankful she is a part of their children’s lives. One of the keys to her success? “Every morning I wake up and tell God it’s his day. I’m exhausted and need his strength. I have to choose my attitude.”
Lights in the Darkness
And what about facing the wee hours of the morning? Chance explains that God has given her some early morning blessings that remind her of his presence. From what she refers to as her “perch in the dark,” she witnesses some beautiful sunrises—something she never experienced in her earlier careers. She has taken a series of sunrise photos to share with her friends on Facebook, posting, “Look what God painted for me today.”
One dark morning as she was performing a routine inspection of her bus, she bent down to peer at the leaf spring, which is a part of the tire system. “As I was looking with my flashlight I noticed a cross symbol on my leaf spring in yellow. I just laughed and said, ‘Thank you for being here, God.’ Each morning I thank him for the kids and ask that he would help me be a light to them today.”
Jamie Shafer is the communications director at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.