COMMUNITY GEMS: Bus driver charts a path for kindness

For Tanika Thompson, being a Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority bus driver isn’t just a 9-to-5 job. It’s also a chance to spread kindness to others.

Thompson, who’s been behind the wheel for 21 years, said she strives to be a listening ear and a person that offers words of encouragement to all.

“When you’re living your life, you’re in your own world,” she said. “When I started driving a bus, I was introduced to other people’s lives, their world, a lot of things that I took for granted in raising my children and my family setting, what I came up in.”

Nominating her as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem was Tara Campbell, Thompson’s younger sister, who said Thompson has “supported thousands of lives and motivated many persons of the community to improve their life’s situations” by “showing interest in people and letting them know they are loved and can do all things if they put their mind to it.”

“You don’t know of many people that would pull their car over to stop three boys from stealing a package off someone’s porch, but never belittle or curse at them, just let them know their self-worth,” Campbell said.

After they returned the package, Thompson — who is known by many as “Miss Nikky” — told them they know better, they need to be better and they don’t have to steal.

“It’s just effortless,” she said. “I do things and don’t even think about it.”

To lift them up, she buys children coats and Christmas gifts and feeds them, “which is what we’re supposed to do,” she said. “We’re supposed to give back. God made sure I was OK, so I’ve got to make sure something ‘bout the next person. If I see somebody in need and I can help, I’m going to help.”

Thompson also supports area youth by taking the time to talk with them about the importance of staying in school and how one should present themselves as a stellar member of society.

“They didn’t know their worth, and ... I just love people. Period,” she said. “I just want people to be their best them.”

Growing up, Thompson said she remembers it took a village to raise a child.

“So ...when I see these kids, I could be driving and seeing them out of order, I’ll pull the bus over, check in on them together,” she said. “They could be on the bus acting like they don’t have any sense, I will take the time to talk to them and let them know people do care about you. You’re not out here by yourself.”

But Thompson doesn’t only have a heart for Dayton youth.

“When people of the community ride her bus and they are going through some tough times, she is always encouraging them that tomorrow will be a better day,” Campbell said.

Thompson said even telling people how nice they look on a given day can make a world of difference.

“You pour into people, I don’t care what’s goin’ on,” she said. “That bus ain’t never that busy that I can’t spread a piece of sunshine.”

A wife of 26 years, Thompson also finds time for her 15 children, three of them by birth and 12 of them by marriage, as well as her 14 grandchildren.

She also is a union executive board member and financial secretary “always working hard to resolve and improve the working relations for employees at RTA,” Campbell said.

Learning she had been nominated as a Community Gem, Thompson broke down crying. She said she was honored by the accolade.

Although she originally wanted to be a social worker, life showed her what she was supposed to be doing, Thompson said,

“This is God putting me here because I’m going to be able to reach way more people (driving a bus) than I could in that setting,” she said.

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