This story will change your day! try not to be biased, but I had my doubts
about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good,
reliable busboy. But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn’t
sure I wanted one. I wasn’t sure how my Customers would react to Stevie.
He was short, a little dumpy with 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
meat loaf platter is good and the pies are homemade. The four-wheeler drivers
were the ones who concerned me; the mouthy college kids traveling to school; the
yuppie snobs who 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. I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie so I closely
watched him for the first few weeks. I shouldn’t have worried. After the first
week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around 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 laugh and eager
to please, but fierce in his attention 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 the table. Our only problem was persuading him to wait
to clean a table 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 dishes and glasses onto his cart and meticulously wipe the table
up 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 from the truck stop. The Social worker,
which stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between
the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference
between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home.
That’s why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first
morning in three years that Stevie 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 at 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’m glad he is going to be
OK", she said. "But I don’t know how he and his Mom are going to handle all the
bills. From what I hear, 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
Steve and really didn’t want to replace him, the girls were busing their own
tables that day 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 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 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 onto 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 all about," she said, "so I told him
about Stevie and his Mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked
at 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."
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 at all that it
was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was
coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that 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 to celebrate his day back. Stevie was thinner and paler, but
couldn’t stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back
room where his apron and busing cart were waiting.
"Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast," I said. I took him and his mother by
their arms. "Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate you 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 and hear 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 empty 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 paper napkins.
"First thing you have to do, Steve, is clean up this mess," I said. I tried
to sound stern. Stevie looked at me, and then at 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 real 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.
says this about this story
"This touching tale is popular because it explodes a
few myths and paints a picture of the world as the place we’d like it to be. We
meet a handicapped person performing a vital function – and doing it extremely
well. We observe co-workers and managers who recognize and appreciate his gifts.
We experience rugged customers breaking stereotypes in caring for Stevie.
Finally, we’re touched by incredible generosity that conveniently coincides with
a holiday for giving thanks.
Unfortunately, this is
nothing more than an inspirational story. My search on the ‘net found it posted
on innumerable inspirational web sites. The story is nearly impossible to
validate because it does not identify the author, has no timeframe (except for
Thanksgiving), mentions no locations other than the "Mayo Clinic" and gives no
other names or identifiable tidbits. The good folks at Snopes.com
confirmed it as fiction and identified the author and original publication date.
Forwarding a story like this one typically does little harm, but it’s the
final note that many people get stuck on. Readers frequently tell me that
closing statements that imply you’re a bad person if you don’t forward it are
irritating at best and insulting at worst. If you like the story and want to
share it, do so, but remove the bullying lines at the end first. Break this
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