As I was doing some work-related paperwork in a McDonald’s in Defiance, I saw him first out of the corner of my eye. He was one of the restaurant’s employees sweeping the back section where the restrooms are, the section that I always choose for a bit more quiet during my frequent Wi-Fi-borrowing visits to Golden Archlandia. But, as I immersed myself in a cleaning-inspection report, I became more aware of how long it was taking the worker to finish sweeping the area.
As I looked up, finally focusing on the worker for a moment, I saw why the man who appeared to be in his early 50s was moving slowly. His left foot was angled severely to the inside, and it was obvious it took great effort to take each step.
Yet, there he was, with black pants and golden-arches logoed hat, doing his job by sweeping and later wrestling with the trash bag by getting it out of the cylinder and readying it for transfer by another employee, who would take it outside to the dumpster behind the fencing in the back of the parking lot. The latter was the only noticeable concession I saw made to a disability that would keep, I think, so many from punching any time clock.
Age, which is another what many see as an obstacle in engaging in gainful employment or volunteering, is certainly not a hindrance to others I see. In another McDonald’s, one I use for work-related purposes in Columbus, I routinely see two older gentlemen, one stooped significantly at the waist that makes walking difficult, who sweeps and trashes, while the other even older gentleman who is always dressed in a suit and tie wipes down tables and delivers food to those who use the self-pay ordering screens.
On our last fall trip, Lady Jane and I were leaving the Pigeon Forge hotel for our day exploring the Smoky Mountains when Jane saw a maid down the hall. Jane wanted some extra towels, so we approached her, and Jane explained what she needed. The maid looked at her perplexed, shook her head and pointed to her mouth and ears, indicating that she had no ability either to speak or hear.
She then picked up her cell phone on the cleaning cart, tapped the notes app and handed it to Jane. Jane typed in her request and showed it to her, and an instant later, Jane had her towels. As we walked away, I thought about how much tougher any job would be for someone that lacked the ability to speak or hear. And yet, here was this woman refusing to use a set of circumstances that would keep so many from working by using technology to get her job done.
A final example of someone overcoming both physical limitations and age is a gentleman to whom I’ve spoken many times named Don, who works the security counter at one of my Columbus accounts.
Now 86 years old, Don has been at his post every time I’ve come to do an inspection over the last four years, working his frequent appointments with doctors (he’s told me he has seven in all) around his work duties. Don is a prostate cancer survivor, has had significant coronary issues, has had a stroke, has debilitating knee issues caused by arthritis and also has had issues with his eyes that require special eye drops.
Yet, he’s always upbeat whenever I see him despite what he says are the annoyances of having more doctor visits in a month than many have all year. And yet, there he is, day after day, in uniform and ready to fulfill the duties of the J-O-B.
I think about these labor warriors I’ve encountered on my own journeys through life, especially when I see what appears to be able-bodied young folks with cardboard signs by interstate ramps and on city street corners seeking financial assistance, this, during a time when I don’t drive more than two blocks in any city without seeing at least three “We’re hiring” signs posted.
And, so today I’m giving a big thumbs up to those workers earning a paycheck or doing regular volunteers out there who brush aside their physical disabilities and their advancing age, refusing to see them as insurmountable limitations, to get their jobs done. You are truly labor warriors.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.