Grab a Kleenex, and enjoy a nice story about one of God's "special
children." It'll help you see what Jesus meant when He said -- "Love one another..."
Trying not to be biased, I was hiring a handicapped person. His placement
counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy. I had never had a
mentally handicapped employee, and I wasn't sure I wanted one. I wasn't sure how
my customers would react to Stevie. He was short, a little dumpy, and had the
smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of Down Syndrome.
I wasn't worried about most of my trucker customers, because truckers don't generally
care who buses tables as long as the meatloaf platter is good and the pies are
homemade. The four-wheeler drivers were the ones who concerned me; the mouthy
college kids travelling to school; the yuppie snobs that secretly polish their
silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded "truck-stop
germ;" the pairs of white-shirted business men on expense accounts, who think
every truck-stop waitress wants to be flirted with.
It was these people that I was concerned might be
uncomfortable around Stevie. So, I watched him closely for the first few weeks. I
shouldn't have worried though. After the first week, Stevie had my entire staff
his stubby little finger, and within a month my truck regulars had adopted him
as their official truck-stop mascot. After that, I really didn't care what the
rest of the customers thought of him.
He was like a 21-year-old in blue jeans
and Nikes, eager to attend to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly
in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done
with table. Our only problem was convincing him to wait until after the
customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight
from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty.
Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus the dishes and glasses
onto a cart and meticulously wipe the table with a practiced flourish of his
rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added
concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love
how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.
Over time, we learned
that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries
for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two
miles away from the truck-stop. Their social worker, who stopped in to check on him
every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight and
what we paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live
together and Stevie being sent to a group home. That is why the restaurant was a
gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that
Stevie had missed work.
He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new
valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with
Down Syndrome often had heart problems at an early age so this wasn't
unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in
good shape and be back to work in a few months. A ripple of excitement ran
through the staff later that morning when word came that he was out of surgery,
in recovery, and doing fine. Frannie, my head waitress, let out a war hoop and
did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news.
Belle Ringer, one
of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of the 50-year-old
grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table. Frannie blushed,
smoothed her apron and shot Belle Ringer a withering look. He grinned, "OK,
Frannie, what was that all about?" he asked. "We just got word that Stevie is
out of surgery and going to be okay." I was wondering where he was. I had a
new joke to tell him. What was the surgery about?" Frannie quickly told Belle
Ringer and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie's surgery,
then sighed. "Yeah I am glad he is going to be okay, but I don't know how he and
his mom are going to handle all the bills, from what I hear they're barely
getting by as it is."
Belle Ringer nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried
off to wait on the rest of her tables. Since I hadn't had time to round up a
busboy to replace Stevie and really didn't want to replace him, the girls were
bussing their own tables until we decided what to do. After the morning
rush, Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her
hand and a funny look on her face. What's up?" I asked. "I didn't get that
table where Belle Ringer and his friends were sitting cleared off until after
they left, and Pony Pete and Tony Tipper were sitting there when I got back to
clean it off," she said. "This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup." She
handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell on my desk when I opened it.
On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed "Something for Stevie".
"Pony Pete asked me what that was about," she said, "so I told him about Stevie
and his mom and everything, and Pete and they ended up giving me this." She
handed me another paper napkin that had "Something for Stevie" scrawled on
its outside. Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds. Frannie looked at me
with wet shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply, "truckers" -- 'ya got to love 'em.
That was three
months ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back
to work. His placement worker said he's been counting the days until the doctor
said he could work, and it didn't matter that it was a holiday. He called 10
times in the last week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had
forgotten him or his job was in jeopardy. I arranged to have his mother bring
him to work, met them in the parking lot, and invited them both in to
celebrate his being back at work. Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn't stop grinning
as he pushed through the door and headed for the back room where his apron and
busing cart were waiting.
"Hold up there, Stevie -- not so fast," I said, as I took him
and his mother by the arms. "Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate your
coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me." I led them toward a
large corner booth at the rear of the room. I could feel the rest of the staff
following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my
shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers get up and join the
procession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered
with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on
dozens of folded napkins.
First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this
mess," I said; trying to sound stern. Stevie looked at me, and then his
mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had "Something for Stevie"
printed on the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table.
Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the
tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it. I turned to his mother.
"There's more than $10,000 in cash and checks on that table, all from truckers
and trucking companies that heard about your problems. Happy Thanksgiving!"
Well, It got really noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and
shouting, and there were a few tears, as well. But you know what's funny? While
everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a
big, big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the
table. Best worker I ever hired!
Plant a seed and watch it grow. At this point, you can forget about this Inspirational
Story or forward it -- maybe helping someone else with a