He heard a quiet yelp from behind and he swiftly turned around, trying to find the source of the noise. His eyes scanned the bus until he found it. And when he did his heart sank. There was a boy sitting at the back with his sleeves covering his face.
His chest was moving up and down rapidly like waves at sea, it was clear he didn’t want anyone to know that he was upset. But Tom heard him. What was the boy’s problem? Then suddenly, Tom saw the little boy’s face and a terrible feeling hit the pit of his stomach.
Starting a new school can be an extremely challenging time for any child. Children’s minds race at the thought of everything they may have to face; will they fit in? Will they find their new class on time? Will they make friends?
The unfamiliarity of it all can be daunting for anyone, let alone a child. But when 7-year-old Dale finished his first day at his new school, all his worst nightmares came true.
The first half of Dale’s first day at Holy Family Catholic School went off without a hitch. He nervously navigated the new hallways and classrooms and became familiar with his teachers and classmates. He even mustered up the courage to speak to the boy sitting next to him at recess.
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all? But by the time school ended and it was time to go home, Dale made an enormous mistake, and nothing was ever the same again.
The bell rang at 3:15, signaling that it was time to go home. Students chatted excitedly and pushed and shoved out the classrooms, eager to be released. Dale quietly hung back and waited for the rush to pass before stepping outside.
At the entrance, he saw the big yellow bus waiting for him. Riding the bus by himself was a little scary for the 7-year-old, but his mom had gone through it with him before he left that morning, so he got on. He had no idea what was coming.
There were a few other kids on the bus, but Dale didn’t recognize them. Feeling exposed and a little nervous, he walked right to the back and took a seat. He daydreamed as he watched the trees whipping by, knowing that he would be home soon.
Then the few kids got off the bus and an elderly looking man got on. He sat near the front of the bus, and as soon as he sat down his eyes glanced at Dale. He sat staring at the little boy. What was his problem? Dale had no idea his life was about to get turned upside down.
When the clock struck 3:40, Dale’s mom began to worry. He should have been home 10 minutes ago already! She poured herself a cup of tea and tried to steady her nerves. Perhaps she was being paranoid. Maybe the bus had been delayed. Everything was fine, right?
She waited and watched the clock. It was his first day, after all. She knew her little boy would handle it all just fine. But she was so very wrong.
By the time 4 o’clock had rolled around, Dale’s mom was a nervous wreck. Surely something had happened? She got on the phone to the principal and the startled mom told them that her son hadn’t come home.
The principal sent out an alert on the school’s emergency chat group, describing what Dale had been wearing that day and asking everyone to keep a lookout. But time was running out for Dale.
Twenty minutes passed, and then fifty. Dale didn’t remember the trip to school this morning taking so long. After an hour had passed, his stomach began to churn. This couldn’t be, right? Had he missed his stop?
The old man was still on the bus and he was still staring at Dale. The little boy had no idea why he was staring, but then suddenly the old man got up. And he made his way to Dale.
The old man sat a few seats away from Dale, his bloodshot eyes still focused on the 7-year-old. It was just him, the old man, and the bus driver on the bus but Dale had never felt more alone.
He felt sick to his stomach. He just wanted to be home. He wanted this day to be over. But Dale had no idea this day was far from over.
Dale had been on the bus for a good hour now, and with each minute that passed, he felt new more anxious and terrified. But when the bus pulled up to the school again, he knew something was very wrong.
His hands began to get clammy and his heart raced; something the old man seemed to take delight in. Then, he saw three seniors board the bus. This was his only chance to get help.
Tom, a senior student at the Holy Family Catholic School in Liverpool, boarded the bus after basketball practice after school. He was accompanied by two of his friends, Harry and Dylan. They took their seats at the front of the bus and chatted excitedly.
It was their first day back at school after the December break. But none of the boys could have suspected how the day would end.
Tom’s phone buzzed and he pulled it out his pocket. When he saw the message, his brow furrowed in an expression of concern, but he continued to chat with his friends.
That’s when he heard a sob from the back of the bus. He turned to see an old man walk past him and get off the bus and a devastated little boy, sobbing into the sleeves of his parka was sitting at the back of the bus. What had happened?
He approached Dale and asked him what had upset him so much. Through the tears, Dale explained that he was new in the area and had gotten on the wrong bus.
To add to the boy’s anxiety, he had no cellphone and probably didn’t have enough money to get home. In fact, he didn’t even know where his home was! That’s when Tom noticed the tennis shoes with blue laces that the boy was wearing. He was the boy everyone was looking for!
After listening to the little boy’s dilemma, Tom knew what he had to do. He pulled a fistful of notes out his back pocket and gave them to the crestfallen boy.
Then, he told the bus driver to stop the bus. “It’s ok mate, don’t worry, you’ll be home soon,” he reassured Dale. Then, he pulled out his phone. But Tom knew he had to be quick, time as running out.
Tom, Harry, and Dylan began to search for taxi services on their phones. Bingo! They called the Delta taxi service and sent him their location.
And, just to make sure that Dale would be safe, they waited with him for the taxi to arrive. But none of the teens expected that they would go viral for their good deed.
Another student who had witnessed the incident posted the story on Facebook. “There really are some truly decent kids out there! All I know is his name is Tom and he’s a year 11 pupil at Holy Family so if anyone knows him or his parents, let them know what a lovely lad they’ve raised! Faith in humanity restored a little today.”
It wasn’t long before the story spread on social media like wildfire.
Harry Campbell’s mother, Colette, wrote: ‘Harry had told Dylan to ring the taxi to pick him up… to make sure he got home safe… God love him, this little fella was upset and had got on the wrong bus and with it being his first day wouldn’t have known very many people either.”
But would the identity of the kind and considerate senior ever be uncovered?
After the story went viral, someone who knew Tom personally tagged his older sister, Katie O’Brien, in the post.
She replied: “Ahhh everyone it was my little brother. I’ve just been tagged in this by a friend of mine. We are so proud of Tom and it’s so lovely to know he’s a good lad in the outside world.”
“The school rang our mum and left a lovely message,” Katie added. “All your comments are so so lovely they’ve had us all close to tears, Tom will hate all the attention.”
One mother replied to Katie’s comment with: “You should be so proud of him also tell his teacher who can use him as an example for all to follow..well done Tom!”
When Tom saw Dale at school the next day, he asked him how he was doing. Dale replied by handing him his money back, explaining that the taxi driver had refused to take it.
The taxi driver had been so moved by Dale’s tears that he decided to drive him home at no charge!
It wasn’t long before Tom’s act of kindness reached Matthew Syme, the head of the school. He was delighted that Tom and his friends had shown such compassion.
“It is just lovely and at the start of the year it really sets the tone for everyone else,” he said. Then, he made a comment about Tom’s character.
“Tom is an incredibly thoughtful and all-round good guy…. He was just pleased the boy had got home safe. He has set a great example in front of a whole bus of year sevens, who have all that worry and anxiety about the bigger kids.”
He also said that Tom’s good dead is an amazing example of how older pupils at the school are expected to look out for the younger ones.
There was such a buzz around Ruth’s post that soon, Dale’s story had been picked up by local news stations.
“Tom can’t quite believe all the fuss,” Katie told Sky News, “he honestly never thought it would go this far but he’s happy that teenagers can be seen in a good light.”
Tom’s father Kenny later said how proud he is of his “thoughtful and caring” son.
“I am very proud of him. He is a very thoughtful lad and has a great personality” he told the Echo. “He didn’t tell me what had happened until later in the night when he realized people were talking about it on Facebook”.
And what does Tom think about all the attention? Well, he doesn’t think that what he did was a big deal, but his family thinks otherwise.
His sibling admitted that she and her family were proud of all three of the boys for helping, adding, “It is just so nice to see teenagers getting some good press for a change.”