Gene Bollander, Jr. is a driver for Road Scholar. It's a perfect fit, considering the company's dedication to helping good causes. The company has an awareness campaign for various charities/foundations, including The American Breast Cancer Foundation, The International RETT Syndrome Foundation, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Stop Bullying.
Definitely Not a Routine Stop ...
By Dan Valenti (Jul 26, 2011)
On June 3, a Road Scholar Transport tractor-trailer pulled up to the Association of Marian Helpers, Eden Hill, in Stockbridge, Mass., to drop off a pallet of templates. What might have been another routine stop turned into more when the driver, Gene Bollander Jr., asked for directions to the loading dock.
Bollander, 45 — a gregarious man who has an infectious, inquisitive friendliness in his manner — drives about 1,800 miles a week for the company, delivering freight of every description to customers throughout the northeast corridor, from the Virginias to New England, west to Buffalo, N.Y., and throughout the Ohio Valley.
At first glance, Bollander looks like an unlikely candidate for spreading Divine Mercy. Muscular truckers with New York City accents don't spring to mind when conjuring the image of your "typical" believer, and that's the point: With God, nothing is "typical." He loves us all uniquely. Thus, first glances often deceive.
Raised in the Church but then Fallen Away
"I was born on May 27, 1966, in Fairfax County, Va., at DeWitt Army Hospital," Bollander says. "I was put up for adoption. Catholic Charities in Arlington made the arrangements. I was very fortunate to be adopted. It took two special, loving people. That's my mom and dad (Phyllis and Dan Bollander). They lived in Queens, N.Y., and that's where I grew up."
Bollander recalls how his parents raised him in the Church. The family went to Mass each Sunday. When Gene joined the family in 1966, his mother quit her job as a secretary at a doctor's office in Manhattan to be a full-time mom. His dad worked hard as a pressman for a printing company to support the family. Three years later, the Bollanders adopted another boy through Catholic Charities, William, shortly after he was born.
Bollander says that as he got older, he drifted away from the faith but never lost touch with God. Even in his most abject moments — in fact, "especially when things got rough" — I knew He was there, somewhere, for me.
Then God intervened.
A Lost Job, an Intervention, and Road Scholar
"A few years ago, I lost my job. I was having trouble finding work," Bollander says. "Nothing turned up, no matter how hard I tried. I was feeling bad, down and out. At my lowest and most discouraged, well, that's when I got the idea to go back to church. I couldn't think of anything else. I approached Father and asked him to say a few prayers for me. He asked me what I did for a living. When I told him I drive a semi, he smiled and said, 'You have an important job. You feed the nation.' That made me feel great. Shortly thereafter, Road Scholar hired me."
One of his customers is the Association of Marian Helpers. Thus, the Road Scholar deliveries of supplies to the Marian Helpers Center assume a place in spreading the message of Divine Mercy every bit as important as the other work that goes on within the building. That's how God works. He uses people as His eyes and ears, His arms and legs, and as His ... truckers.
Bollander has been with the Clarks Summit, Pa., trucking firm since July 2010. He has nothing but praise for the company and how well they have treated him, adding that the owner, James C. Barrett, is a devout Catholic. Bollander says Barrett's example in the way he runs the business, deals with staff, handles customers, and loves his family have had a deep impact on him. One gets the sense that Barrett has become a father figure to the affable driver.
Not Your Average Trucking Company
He noted, for example, that the company routinely donates money and equipment for charity work. When one of Barrett's grandchildren was diagnosed with autism, Barrett had several of the company's fleet of trucks specially painted to raise awareness of the condition.
Bollander says he and his younger brother, William, have drifted apart, becoming estranged in 1999.
"I still love him," Bollander says. "Everyday, I keep him in my heart through prayer. We grew up together and shared so much together. We were both adopted. I have a spot in my heart for him, and I always will. I hope someday God let's us work it out so we can reunite and be in each other's lives. That's my prayer."
Since being hired by Road Scholar and inspired by James Barrett's example, Bollander has since resumed going to Mass. He rides with images of Jesus and Mary on his dashboard. He prays the Rosary.
"When I do the Rosary," he says, "I pray for everybody. Everyday, I talk to the Guy 'upstairs.' Well, I know He's not 'upstairs.' I see Him right next to me, in the passenger's seat, when I'm driving. I talk to Him. When I light up a cigarette, I imagine Him saying, 'Hey, you don't want to be smoking like that.' Sometimes, I picture Him with a cigarette, too. I betcha He would try a cigarette with me, anyway. Probably wouldn't like it, though."
Lots of time Alone ... with God
Bollander says that federal regulations state that a truck driver cannot drive more than 11 consecutive hours. He or she must stop after that time and take a mandated 10 hours off the road. Being on the road gives him lots of time by himself, either behind the wheel rolling down the highway or sleeping in the cab area of the truck, located behind the driver's seat and cockpit. He uses his time well.
"When I pray, I talk to God, just as I am talking to you right now," Bollander says. "I pray all the time. Even when I'm not formally praying to Him, I'm thinking about Him, which to me is kind of like praying. When I'm driving down the road, I talk to Him. Sometimes it's formal prayer, but most of the time, it's like me and my buddies speak to one another."
He says driving as much as he does allows him to see "almost anything that can happen on the road. The good drivers and the lousy ones. When someone cuts me off or does something stupid, I might say something like, 'Look at these dingbats on the road.' I might even curse, though not often. But when I do, I say a prayer for them, and then I ask the Father for forgiveness for losing my temper. I say, 'Hey, God, Buddy, I didn't mean to disrespect [the other driver] person like that."
Jesus probably wouldn't like cigarettes, but He would love the way Gene Bollander Jr., keeps trucking along, doing his best for God, and making his deliveries throughout the Northeast, including stops at the Marian Helpers Center on Eden Hill.
Gene Bollander Jr. is doing his best — and that is all God ever wants from any of us.