Monday, February 11, 2008

This Story Will Make Your Heart Soar

I had a conversation with a peer today. It was one of those conversations that made you feel dirty, and I told her so, because her view was so foul. Then I came home and watched ABC World News, and one story caused my faith to be restored.

My colleague asked if I lived in a certain area because she thought she saw me walking yesterday. In fact I do, and I told her I was walking to Wal*Mart to get a few needed groceries. She, of course, said she doesn't go to Wal*Mart. It's too dirty (I don't see it, but OK), the people who go there are "eww" (nice way not to be judgemental), and the people who work there....

She threw in some comment about my being politically conservative, and I fired back.

She and I live a little over a mile from each other, so the customers she sees at Wal*Mart are our neighbors. So what is she saying about our community?

And I acknowledged that Wal*Mart hires some people who we might consider "slow". They also hire some people with apparent physical or mental disabilities. Personally, I consider that a plus for Wal*Mart and for the community--these are people Target and Safeway might not hire, but Wal*Mart provides them with an opportunity to earn a real wage doing a real job. They could easily be on welfare, but instead they're making something of themselves and contributing to the greater good. I find denigrating these people, and the company that hires them, to be beneath contempt.

Then I came home and turned on ABC World News with Charles Gibson. One of the last reports was about Walgreens, which runs an interesting facility:
At first glance, the Walgreens distribution center in Anderson, S.C., seems ordinary enough. But upon closer inspection, it's anything but. More than 40 percent of the 700 workers here are disabled.

Here's the story. But if you really want to feel tears well up in your eyes, watch the video. The only way I've been able to see it so far is to go to http://abcnews.go.com/wn and scroll through the big pictures on the left side of the screen; when you see the picture labeled How One Super-Store is Saving the Disabled, click on the "watch" link below. I don't know how long it'll be there, so go soon. There's some video at the story (text) link above, but it doesn't appear to be the entire broadcast video.

It's stories like this, and companies like Wal*Mart and Walgreens, that make me proud to be an American. In so many other societies, people with disabilities are institutionalized, or just paid (welfare) by the state on the assumption, apparently shared by my colleague, that they're worthless. Out of sight, out of mind. If we don't see them, they don't really exist.

I, however, have a brighter view of humanity. ABC's story gave flight to my view, and made my heart soar.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. However, posts like this would be much more interesting if you told us which teacher it was!

Darren said...

Doing so could expose me to potential problems relating to my teaching credential and, hence, keeping my job.

Besides, I already narrowed it down to about half the faculty. Pick it up from there, Dr. Holmes!

Anonymous said...

Really? I didn't know it could cause problems. Aren't you free to write about the people that work with you in what seems like a totally separate area?

Darren said...

Possibly not according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, I'm not. Has to do with professionalism.

And even if that weren't the case, I'd probably not rat her out anyway. Her words and attitudes are those of many people, and I'd rather attack the words and attitudes than any one person in particular.

Dr Pezz said...

While I'm not really a Wal*Mart fan, I do like it when businesses hire those with disabilities. Here Safeway and McDonald's are the major business who do this. What a wonderful gesture and way to build a community.

Eric said...

Thanks for sharing this story Darren. I am the father of a 13 year old developmentally/mentally disabled son and fret over his future when his schooling ends. Stories like this give me hope that he WILL have opportunities to contribute to the working world...

As for your teacher "friend"...if it was just over the fact that it was mentally and physically disabled persons working at Wal-Mart...chalk it up to ingnorance. She needs to spend some time in the special needs world. She might learn the true meaning of the word "special".

MikeAT said...

Darren

One of the local Wal-Mart’s here has a woman working in the cards/stationary department from her wheelchair.

As far as your friend is concerned, as a former Wal-Mart associate (back in my college youth) and current Wal-Mart stock holder, please let her know I don’t want her type in my store. I deal with enough narrow minded people in my professions. And I hope she keeps her prejudice outside of the classroom!

Mike

David said...

There may be legitimate reasons to dislike WMT, but 75% of the anti-Wal-Mart feeling that exists is based on class snobbery, together with a confusion of ethics with aesthetics.

Law and Order Teacher said...

My daughter has been diagnosed with MS. I have not been real keen on writing lately, but this one got me fired up. Your "friend" should be ashamed of herself. Hopefully, she remains perfect and never has to infect humanity with a disability. These businesses are a credit to our country, and make us proud of our country. Compassion should be in all of us not just one side of the political spectrum.

Polski3 said...

The other day, I encountered a student from, lets say, eons ago, when I was still in college and working as a sub teacher (yes, years ago, one did not have to have a BA to get an emergency credential, at least at that time here in California). This "kid", now in his early 40's, has worked for the local high school district in a variety of classified grounds, maintainance, etc. type positions. He was a great kid; but S L O W. V E R Y S L O W. He worked his butt off in classes, with limited success. And he graduated. He has been working now, same place, for 25 years.....

I applaud businesses that try to help people with limitations be able to do honest work and contribute to society.

As for your co-worker, may she someday be blessed with some physical or mental limitation, other than her apparent mental limitations.

Darren said...

Let's be clear: I used the terms "peer" and "colleague".

MikeAT said...

“Law and Order Teacher said... My daughter has been diagnosed with MS.”

Hope you don’t mind me asking but how’s your daughter doing? Darren will attest MS runs in my family…I have an Uncle in a wheelchair from it. He was diagnosed in 1968…and there was nothing they could do for him. At least now there are treatments.

Also, I’m a Houston cop….where did you serve?

Mike

Law and Order Teacher said...

I was a Dayton cop in Ohio. My daughter is doing OK so far. She is on medication every other day. It seems to help with her symptoms. It really helps that she is dealing with her disease in a positive way, even going so far as to get her Special Ed. certification. She a lot tougher than me. We are hoping for the best. Thanks for your interest and thanks for your service as a police officer.

Darren said...

Mike is more than a Houston cop. We met when we were in the same army battalion, and Mike currently serves in the army reserves as well. He has done a reserve tour in Kuwait in support of our little Iraq adventure.

Mrs. C said...

My older son on the autism spectrum is going to need all the help and understanding he can get in the job world. He's physically able, but not so hot on following directions and understanding the social cues. A lot of people forget that those "autistic kids" grow up into autistic adults.

Darren, I hope your "colleague" does not work in special ed, or interact regularly with special ed. students.

My neighbour has a daughter with MS. Thankfully this girl has WONDERFUL parents who made big, big sacrifices for her. Actually, they are my neighbours instead of "the people who live up the street" because as her disease progressed, they bought the lot next to mine and built a house that will accomodate her wheelchair, special showering needs, etc.

PS Being a conservative doesn't mean being a jerk. Though I suppose there are a few of those, too, as demonstrated in this post.

Darren said...

Whoa, Mrs. C, back that truck up. Where in this post do you find a political conservative being a jerk?

ns said...

Darren,

Thank you for bringing up this subject.

If I am honest, and to my utmost shame, my first reaction when I think of employing people with disabilities is aversion. They are more challenging to work with - they are different. It is harder to "accomodate" them.

Many people now adays, when they don't know some one personally, they tend to categorize them in neat little boxes of "approved" or "disapproved." Unfortunately, many people who are not "like the rest of us" fall in to the latter category.

What you've done with this post, is to remind me that all individuals are human beings. They are as deserving of humanity, kindness, and compassion as I am.

Thank you for this. This post has been an eye opener for me.

Darren said...

I'm glad I had a part in that.

rightwingprof said...

Wal-Mart also hires senior citizens. I'm sorry to hear about the MS diagnosis. A friend of mine has MS.

Mrs. C said...

Sorry, Darren, did I misunderstand something?

You typed that she said something about your being politically conservative... and I'm *thinking* that somehow she thought that fact meant she had an ally in her nasty attitude.

That's why I said that being conservative and being a jerk are two separate categories...

Darren said...

I guess there was a miscommunication. She mentioned the fact that I'm conservative in the vein of "only conservatives like Wal*Mart".

She's most assuredly a liberal.

Ellen K said...

I am not a big Walmart fan for several reasons, not the least of which it is an attractive nuisance in our neighborhood due to the Friday night tradition of suburban gangs liking to shoot guns there. Other than the huge size the precludes anything close to a short trip to the store for a gallon of milk, I don't have any serious problems. It's great that they hire folks in need of jobs. But I hope that at some level those folks have advocates that are looking out for their best interests as well. I have seen some companies take advantage of high functioning mentally disabled adults and I would hope it didn't happen there.

Neko said...

So your liberal colleague esentially wants everyone to take care of the poor and disabled, as long as she personally doesn't have to see or talk to them... because they are below her. More irony from the left.

justapixel said...

Congratulations on this post being picked up by the Sacramento Bee. :)

I read it yesterday and nodded my head in agreement. It was nice to see it in the paper.

Darren said...

I didn't know it was in the Bee. Thanks for the heads-up!