Tonight I left the house at 7:15 to go to the grocery store. I drove past the store where you pay 25 cents for a cart and you bag your own groceries. I drove past the store where you can buy everything from clothing to lawn chemicals as well as your meat and potatoes. I went to the store where I know there are people working that have disabilities.
After filling my grocery cart to the brim with the coming week’s meal items as well as a majority of what will become our family’s Thanksgiving dinner next week, I pulled my cart up to the checkout counter. The person in front of me was paying for their items and I began to unload. A young man came over and asked if he could unload the rest of my groceries, a second stood at the counter ringing everything up, and a third man, John*, stood at the end of the aisle waiting to put the groceries into bags then into the waiting second cart.
If I was on a bicycle (obviously this is a hypothetical situation :) ) and riding along the road and found myself in the path of a bunch of cyclists that are in a race, my personal fast pace would likely look like I was just strolling along slowly in comparison to the cyclists going twice as fast as I was. It’s not that I was riding slowly (remember, this is hypothetical!), it’s simply that they are very fast at what they are doing.
The last week or so I’ve had several conversations with friends and therapists about life skills, job training, adult workforces for people with disabilities, and the NEED for acceptance, self esteem, and being part of the workforce that most people have. With or without disabilities.
Back at the grocery store, man #1 quickly unloads my entire cart. Man #2 scans as many groceries as he can fit on the end part of the carousel area. John begins bagging groceries. He looks through, finds the canned items and puts them carefully in a bag then into the cart. He finds the cold items and puts them together. He grabs the items in glass jars and bags them then puts them in the cart.
The cashier stands there and watches him. He puts two things in a bag. The first man walks away. John continues to put things logically into the bags and carefully into the cart.
He’s not moving slowly. He’s just moving at a pace that’s normal for him. He’s working through his thought process, carefully completing a job he was well trained to do.
Unless you compare him to the cashier.
Then, you think he must be moving at a snail’s pace as he methodically goes about his job and carefully packs the groceries away.
Tonight as the last of my groceries was put into my cart, I thanked John for his work. I pointed out a place where that last bag he held would fit without squashing any bread, eggs, or fruit. He offered to bring my groceries to the car, and as always I declined. Then he turned back to his work.
The cashier handed me the receipt, and he said to me, “I’m sorry it took so long… working slow tonight.”
All sorts of thoughts ran through my head as I walked out to my car. John needs a job like this. He did very well at his job. He’s not a marathon runner or riding in a bicycle race. He’s going about at a pace that’s fast for him, and that, compared to someone else on another checkout aisle, wouldn’t have seemed very slow at all. And yet, he was being looked at as if he’s slowly ambling along.
Have you been at that cashier line lately? Have you had that person that appeared to be working at a snail’s pace put your groceries into the bags? Have you given them grace?
What the cashier didn’t know about me is that I am proud of John. What he didn’t know about me is that in about 20 years, I will be the proud parent of six adults, much like John. What he didn’t know about me is that no matter the hurry I may have been in, I was willing to wait on John.
What he didn’t know about me is that tonight when I left the house at 7:15 to go to the grocery store I drove past the store where you pay 25 cents for a cart and you bag your own groceries, past the store where you can buy everything from clothing to lawn chemicals as well as your meat and potatoes, and I went to the store where I know there are people working that have disabilities. And I was HAPPY to have John carefully help me check out.
*name has been changed to respect privacy