Your pay is not necessarily what you’re worth.

I go for a run each morning. It’s a great way to start my day for a couple of different reasons; my health is but one of them.

On my morning runs during the summer break for school I miss seeing Kalani. It will be good to see him in late August when school starts up again.

Kalani drives a school bus. The bus yard is about 30 miles from where he starts to pick up the kids in my neighborhood, and to be sure he is never late, Kalani drives those first 30 miles to get here at least a half-hour earlier than he needs to. He doesn’t want to be late. You never know when something unexpected could delay him, traffic and all, and the very worst thing would be to keep an anxious child waiting for him.

So I usually first see Kalani parked on a quiet side street waiting for the exact time his pick-ups should start. He uses his early time to carefully and meticulously check his school bus. Sometimes I see him with a dustpan and small hand-broom, sometimes with a polishing cloth and spray bottle of cleaner, sometimes with a can of engine oil. When that first child gets on, Kalani wants to make sure they will walk into a bus that is spotless and safe.

But that’s not enough. The bus has to be warm and welcoming too. It has to be special. When you peer inside the front door of his bus, you also see that Kalani has jerry-rigged a couple of holders for fresh flowers from his yard, and that there’s a milk crate near his seat with children’s story books. Kalani especially loves Dr. Seuss.

I talked to Kalani for the first time when he was perched on a step stool outside the fourth or fifth window back from the front, cleaning off a smudge near the uppermost edge of the window. I had seen Kalani’s bus pass by when it was full of children, and I knew that there wasn’t a single child tall enough for that smudge to have entered into their normal sight line, so as I approached him I had said, “You really take good care of that bus.”

Kalani had answered, “It’s important that I do, for this bus takes care of me, and it takes care of our children. One day these children will have to take care of things too, so I best set a good example for them.”

Since that day I’ve talked to Kalani pretty often. Our conversations are short, but in some way, Kalani always seems to bring the subject back to the children, and to why his job is the most important job in the whole world. He’s often told me that he is a lucky man to have it, and to have the opportunity to take responsibility for the way the day will start for so many children. It is his Kuleana, and he loves that it is.

Kalani knows the name and age of every child on his bus. He knows who their favorite teacher is, and who their best friend is. He knows when it is their birthday, and he gets all the children to sing happy birthday on those special days. He knows when they get an A on a quiz, because they show it to him with pride, knowing that Kalani will make a huge fuss over them, and tell them how smart they are, and that he knew that they could do it.

I’ve often thought about all the parents of those children who’ve never met Kalani, yet they entrust him with their most precious possessions. They’re lucky too; they’re very fortunate that they simply lucked out in having Kalani assigned to our neighborhood route. They are very fortunate that Kalani takes personal responsibility for having their children start their school day in the best possible way.

One Monday I saw another driver, and I got worried that something had happened to Kalani, but turns out he had just gotten a bad cold. The next time I saw him, he explained that it was more important that he stayed home to get well, for it would have been horrible if he had made some child sick because they had caught his cold. He couldn’t risk that.

I don’t know exactly what Kalani gets paid to drive that bus. However I do know that his pay is nowhere near a reflection of his worth.

I don’t know how much of that pay Kalani is able to save and invest, or buy life’s luxuries with. However I do know that Kalani is a very rich man.

Related post: The Energy Flow of Kuleana.


  1. says

    Excellent post, I wish there were more people out there, who took their job that seriously no matter the job.
    Reminds me of the man I worked for as a teenager, the local milkman. He delivered milk 6 nights a week (about 5 hours per night) and knew each of his customers.
    In fact (sadly) on more than one occasion he was the first to find pensioners who had passed away as they had not ordered fresh milk.
    He managed somehow, to remember not only how much milk people wnated but what their pets were, what sport they liked, etc etc etc.
    Amazing, much like your Kalani, he absolutely did not earn as much money as he was worth.

  2. says

    Aloha Lance,
    Thank you for your comment and for sharing your own experience and story. I appreciate that you took the time to do so.
    Like you, I hope our examples will inspire more people to understand that their jobs are as important as they make them, and those that put a signature on their work like this are rewarded in different ways.
    I am also hoping that bosses out there know which people are the Kalanis of their companies, and that they recognize them, compensate them well, and give them the opportunities to inspire and mentor others in the organization.
    Welcome to the Ho’ohana Community, and I hope we’ll hear more from you on Talking Story.

  3. says

    Unless you’re hell-bent on self-sufficiency, you get to part of society. That means being dependent on others and having others be dependent on you (even if you don’t look at it like that). Except perhaps for lawyers (), what role is not essential either for our proper day-to-day functioning, or for the vitality and possibilities of our future?

  4. says

    One bus driver’s passion

    Rosa posted a great story yesterday about a bus driver named Kalani. The care he poured into his bus and his children are inspiring. And he reminds us that being passionate about what we do is more important than a lot of the material things we value. …