Keep It Even, Fold It Straight

A cute young guy who clearly struggles with some learning challenges has come in several times to apply for a job. Speaking under pressure is tough for him, and on these occassions he mostly has pointed upstairs and said, “I am here for a manager, for a job.”

I have felt kind of sorry for him. He is polite and earnest, but I figured he must be getting turned away every time, right?

Today he walked in and announced in his halting style, “It’s my first day. I am here for training. I need to see my manager.”

“Really! Welcome to your first day,” I told him, amazed and happy for him.

“I am supposed to be here at three, but I am early.” It was 2:30. “I will come back.”

“Sounds good.” And off he went.

Busboy? The manager he asked for hires bussers. Could he even remotely handle that job?

At five minutes ’till three, he came back. “Hi, I am back to see my manager.”

“Hi again,” I said. “What’s your name?”

I couldn’t understand what he said. But I then told him my name–not a very common name, and actually a nickname.

“My cousin has that name,” he said, faster and more clearly. “Her real name is Virginia, is that yours?”

“Nope,” I said, “But how cool your cousin and I have the same nickname.” He answered with a smile and headed upstairs to find “his” manager.

Later, when I got off, I walked back to a closed dining area to change from my party shoes into running shoes to head home. I saw the new hire–now dressed in a busser’s uniform–in another booth with the manager he’d been waiting for. He was intent on folding a napkin, really working hard at it.

“That’s right,” coaxed the manager in a patient tone I’d rarely heard from him. “Line up the ends. Keep it even. Fold it straight.” The new hire was doing it, not perfectly, but trying.

I tied my shoes and checked back at the podium one last time. Up walked the manager who’d been working with the new hire.

“Hey,” I said. “That new kid seems really sweet. Is he going to be a busser?”

“Oh, no, not a busser. He’s a son of a friend. He’s just going to be folding napkins for us.”

Yeah, that made sense.

Folding napkins–something the other bussers do while they tease each other about partying and girlfriends. This kid won’t be a part of that–ever.

But he will come to work on time, proud to have this job, and will always work incredibly hard to keep it even and fold it straight.






12 responses to “Keep It Even, Fold It Straight”

  1. El Guapo in DC Avatar

    Very sweet story. I know that he will be one of the hardest workers at your restaurant.

    El Guapo

  2. Melissa Avatar

    It always makes me smile to see learning-challenged folks working in the public eye. They’re just so proud. If only we could teach our children the value of an honest day’s labor for an honest day’s pay and have them be equally proud of the check at the end of the week…At the end of the day it’s not about the title you hold but how well you do your job. Period.

  3. skye Avatar

    I knew it was gonna be a tear jerker story as soon as you said he got the job…lol. I’m sappy. I love these kinds of stories, even more so because I have a friend who has a 26-year-old daughter with downs syndrome and know what they go through. Unfortunately, after they graduate from their special education classes, there’s not a lot for them out there, except maybe dingy factory-type places where they do piece mill work. My friend refuses to put his daughter in such a place. Luckily, his wife’s boss was nice enough to let her work at her retail shop putting prices on items. Doing repetitive things is easier for them. Still, it’s not the office work that she spent years learning.

    Hope you’ll update us in the future about his progress.

  4. Yvonne Avatar

    Wonderful story! I am so happy to hear that there are still places of business that will help someone with special needs. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for a company that values and respects the needs of these individuals and is willing to train them in the retail environment, an environment they excel at. Hurray for retail–I love it!
    ps. This is truly one of the best blogs that I have ever read!

  5. JanD Avatar

    Your place of business will be a better place just by having him there. Bravo to your manager for hiring him.

  6. Kris Avatar


  7. Zeus Avatar

    I pondered once after years of reading about different religions and their perception of the after life….If we are reincarnated because we need several (or many) lives to reach enlightenment, what would that eventual state of mind be like? I’ve known many down-syndrome people, always kind, friendly and full of love. Is that height of enlightenment – simple, happy and full of love?

  8. liz Avatar

    Thank you for that wonderful post. You, too, seem like an understanding person. Made my day!

  9. themerryrose Avatar

    Thanks for that – I am just starting my day, and having grown up with people with learning difficulities, you learn to appreciate life in a different way. I wish I was still like this – that is happy, always smiling and so full of love for everyone and everything.

  10. Ceece Avatar

    seriously, more people need ot have that kid’s attitude. Nice story.

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