In life, friendships can come in all shapes and sizes. Bus driver John Reed certainly learned that after he built an incredible bond with four-year-old Sebastiana Balistreri. But after a few months with his favorite passenger, Reed had to say goodbye to the little girl – and he did so in quite the adorable manner.
Every weekday, Sebastiana accompanies her mom, Tracy Balistreri, on the GreenLine bus in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The girl travels to her elementary school on the route; Tracy, meanwhile, uses the bus to go to work at a nearby spa.
And during her daily commute, Tracy’s daughter got to know their bus driver. The four-year-old was so enthusiastic about seeing Reed, in fact, that she would even jump for joy when she saw his vehicle approaching the Balistreris’ stop.
Tracy would confirm as much in a March 2018 interview with Inside Edition, saying, “My daughter is very happy. That’s just the way she is.” The mom added, “In the morning, when she sees him coming, she gets very excited. They just struck up a friendship.”
In fact, Reed and Sebastiana got along so well that the mother-and-daughter duo did their best to regularly encounter him. “We try to always take the same bus because we made friends with the driver John,” Tracy wrote on Facebook in March 2018. “She is always super-excited to see him.”
Tracy added, “[Sebastiana] always wishes [Reed] a good morning and tells him the latest tidbit of news in her four-year-old life.” And during their rides together, the bus driver and the little girl developed an adorable kinship. “She wrote him a Valentine, and he gave her one too. They are best buddies,” Tracy shared on Facebook.
However, after several months of taking the child and her mom where they needed to go, Reed knew that the three of them were going to part ways. Why? Well, the driver was moving to another route. Reed didn’t let the occasion go unmarked, though – and he chose the most heartwarming way to say goodbye.
The trio’s last journey together took place on March 9, 2018. Before Sebastiana and Tracy boarded the bus, however, Reed honked the horn and waved at the pair. Then when the four-year-old began to make her way through the vehicle’s front doors, the driver cheerily greeted her.
“Good morning, sweetie! How are you?” Reed asked. Sebastiana gleefully responded that she was “good.” After that moment, though, Reed confessed that he had something to hand over to the little girl. It turned out, in fact, that he had organized a farewell present for the four-year-old.
And the bus driver handed Sebastiana a gift bag with plenty of goodies inside. “I got you a card, I got you some coloring books, and there’s something else in there for you,” he said. That something else was a stuffed gray bunny rabbit.
On Facebook, Tracy later revealed that Sebastiana “kept insisting” that the bunny was actually a hedgehog. It appeared that the child loved it all the same, though, as the mom explained that her daughter brought the toy with her to school so that she could cuddle it during nap time. But the sweet note accompanying the bunny seemed to affect Tracy in particular.
According to Sebastiana’s mother, Reed had scribbled in the card, “I can honestly say that over the past months you have been my favorite lil bus passenger. Your happy smile and warm ‘Good mornings’ have brightened my every day. I want to thank you for being a great example for others to follow.”
With that note, Reed let the child know that she had brought a lot of joy to his mornings. And the gesture touched her mom, it seemed, as she subsequently posted a photo of Sebastiana’s present on Facebook and explained what it meant to her.
“I often wonder if I’m doing this parenting thing right,” Tracy shared. “I really try to teach my child to be polite and respectful of others – but, most importantly, to be kind.” And, judging by Reed’s gesture, that lesson has clearly worked.
What’s more, Tracy wrote that she hopes her daughter’s experience encourages people to treat others well. “In honor of John’s generosity and kindness, I’d like to ask you to pay it forward today,” she added. “Do something unexpected today for someone, just because. More smiles in this world will help make it a happier place to live.”
The adorable moment between Reed and Sebastiana was also captured by the vehicle’s security cameras and posted on the Milwaukee County Transit System Facebook page. That clip has now been viewed 19,000 times, and it prompted several Facebook users to comment below, too.
Many people left comments about what a fantastic person and bus driver Reed is, for example. “I have had the pleasure of riding with him on both the GreenLine [bus] and the 80! Great driver! Always helpful and friendly!” Kelly Steinhoff wrote. Meanwhile, Brett Roth, who works with Reed, called him “a class act.”
Others focused, however, on the importance of compassion and thoughtfulness in general. “Coolest thing! We all need to be more like John and Sebastiana!” Linda Kliesmet commented. And Amelia Foxly wrote, “[Sebastiana’s] going to remember that for the rest of her life. That kind of kindness sticks with you. What an awesome man!”
Since Tracy posted about Reed’s actions, several news outlets have covered the story. The bus driver and the young girl also took some photos together before Reed’s work itinerary changed. And it’s worth noting that, according to Milwaukee County Transit System, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for drivers to swap their routes; they may do so as often as four times during a year.
Tracy and Reed are still in touch, however, and she revealed on Facebook that Reed says that his route is now “pretty boring without Sebastiana on it.” And while Sebastiana and her mom are also fond of their new driver, Tracy has admitted that he could never measure up to Reed. Plus, the spa employee added on Facebook, “It’s been fun watching John and Sebastiana’s story being shared all over the world! Just goes to show we all need a little more kindness in our lives.”