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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Looking Past Disabilities

A great article in the Wall Street Journal tells of some employers' efforts to look past disabilities to find valuable work for people. I love what can happen when we see beyond our blinders and look for ways to give opportunities such as honest work to good people who have been overlooked by others. We need to do this, not just for employment, but for Church callings and other opportunities in life. Some amazing people in my life have had very visible disabilities, yet were capable of far more than others assumed.

I am grateful for the Gospel perspective that all human beings are our brothers and sisters, children of our Heavenly Father, and that whatever limitations their current physical shell may provide, the soul within is every bit as magnificent and precious as any of us, with incredible potential waiting to be realized. Love others, no matter who they are, treat them well, and look forward to the day of Resurrection when all our physical limitations will be corrected and we will stand equally before the Lord.

Here's an excerpt from the story:
Erasing 'Un' From 'Unemployable'
Walgreen Program Trains the Disabled
To Take on Regular Wage-Paying Jobs
By AMY MERRICK
August 2, 2007; Page B1

ANDERSON, S.C. -- Like many people with autism, Harrison Mullinax, a pale, redheaded 18-year-old with a serious expression, speaks in a monotonous, halting voice and sometimes struggles to concentrate on tasks. Unlike most who are autistic, he now has a real job.

Mr. Mullinax works eight hours a day at a new Walgreen Co. distribution center, where he wields a bar-code scanner, checking in boxes of merchandise bound for the company's drugstores. From his paycheck, he tithes to his church and sometimes treats his mother to dinner at Kenny's, a local buffet restaurant.
[Harrison Mullinax]
Eighteen-year-old Harrison Mullinax, above, scans an item at the Walgreen's distribution center in Anderson, S.C.; inset, Mr. Mullinax enters data into a special computer.

An innovative program at the distribution center is offering jobs to people with mental and physical disabilities of a nature that has frequently deemed them "unemployable," while saving Walgreen money through automation.

"It answered a prayer," says Mr. Mullinax's mother, Vikki, who gets him up for work at 5 each morning, before sending him off to the bus for work. "It's given us the hope that at some point Harrison can live with minimal assistance."

A number of large employers, such as McDonald's Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., recruit people with disabilities to be cashiers, maintenance workers or store greeters. At Home Depot Inc., developmentally disabled workers stock shelves, clean displays and help customers find items. Home Depot has been working with a nonprofit organization called Ken's Kids, which was formed a decade ago by a group of parents seeking employment opportunities for their young-adult children, and has placed more than 100 people in 54 stores. In addition, smaller businesses around the nation have made a goal of employing workers passed over by other companies. . . .

4 comments:

Scherer said...

Thanks for this post Jeff, It is a great lesson. I worked through High School and college in a super market and was lucky enough to work with a man who was considered developmentally challenged. He taught me a great deal about being happy and taking pride in your work. I never saw him greet a customer with anything but a smile and willingness to help.

Anonymous said...

Too bad the government is @#$%^&* up these opportunities by requiring a higher minimum wage.

Robert said...

One of the greatest men I ever knew was born with cerebral palsy. He was blessed to have a mother and father who did not allow his disability to give him an excuse for not doing things. He achieve a doctoral degree from Yale. He taught me a lot about love and faith. His sons remain people I consider dear friends. He was an inspiration to me, and to many others.

I also knew a boy with autism that lived in my cul-de-sac from the time I became a teenager until I moved away. He was in a program like the one you described that helped kids with mental and physical differences to become a part of the working world. I think it did a great deal for the community as well as for the families of the people in the program. It is unfortunate that our society writes off such amazing souls because they are different.

The third story you help me recall is one about a boy with down syndrome who asked for a job at a truck stop. Initially the manager turned him down, saying he didn't think people would like having him around and he didn't want to have to constantly be worrying about teaching the boy to do his job. He later said he was the best employee he ever had. When he needed a kidney operation (as people with that condition often do) and was out of work, the truck drivers and other frequenters of the place took up a large donation to help him out because they had come to truly love him. He was a model employee. That story touched me heart. Sometimes I wonder who it is who is "disabled" and who needs "help", whether it is these special souls, or it is us who look at them in such a way far too often.

Joseph Antley said...

It's actually inspiring to see that there is -some- signs of moral progress in the country. Unfortunately these glimpses seem rare, or at least rare to find in the media.