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.