“Mrs. Schulz, this is Alice at Food City…” (my heart stops: what’s wrong?). “Billy is getting an award this afternoon at 3:00; I thought you would like to be here.”
Would I? I called Mary and we met at Food City a little before 3:00. Billy saw us and declared, “Mom, I getting a ward!” He was beaming as he led us to the meeting room at the back of the store. Chairs were arranged for seating and refreshments were placed on tables: chips, dips, vegetables, fruit -a generous assortment. Billy sat on the front row with his friend Michelle, I sat behind them, and Mary found a place where she could take pictures unobtrusively.
Brandon, the store manager, explained the awards to be granted for community commitment and for length of time employed at Food City. Billy was called to the front and presented with a pin representing ten years of employment at Food City, a chain of over 100 grocery stores in Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky. It is a beautiful pin with 3 small rubies and a diamond. Billy accepted the pin with a big grin on his face, sat down and showed it to Michelle.
With tears running down my cheeks, I recalled the difficulty of our moving from North Carolina to Tennessee ten years ago, the anxiety of finding a job, learning new skills and trying to avoid stressful situations. I thought of Jonathan, the friend who taught Billy the unforeseen ropes and offered his friendship.
And I thought of Billy’s work experience: 21 years at Hunter Library in North Carolina and 10 years at Food City. That represents an employment record to be envied by anyone.
Not bad for a man who was diagnosed “trainable” as a child.
My friend, Jonathan, came to visit. We had snow that day!
Jonathan brought Christmas presents for me and my mom. And I had a present for Jonathan and Danielle, too.
I had a good Christmas! My nephews Daniel and Warren were here. My brother Tom and sister in law Sheila were here for a week and we all had a good time. My mom got huge stockings for everybody. Mary put a picture on every one. They were pictures of when we were little. It was so funny!
Mom made my favorite breakfast. Ham biscuits and cheese grits and other stuff. It was so good. Then we all opened our stockings and laughed a lot. I love my family and I love Christmas.
The day after Christmas I had a great surprise. My friend Jonathan came to see me. You member him. We worked together at Food City. Now he lives in Alabama. He stayed all afternoon. We went down to my partment and talked and laughed a lot. Jonathan is my best friend. I miss him a lot. I was so glad to see him. I think he will come back for Easter. I hope so.
My nephew Paul and his wife Edna came for New Year’s. We had a good time with them too. When they left my mom and I went to church. When we came out we had a flat tire. Now the holiday is over.
I hope you had a good Christmas too. And Happy New Year!
P.S. Now that Christmas is gone, it’s okay for me to talk about my birthday.
Me and My Mom Going to the Gordon Lightfoot Concert
Me and my mom had a great time at the Gordon Lightfoot concert.
Last Sunday Mary took me and my mom to a concert. Gordon Lightfoot. I like Gordon Lightfoot for a long, long time and I love concerts. Gordon Lightfoot is good looking and he is a good singer. He sang Fitzgerald, Sundown, If You Could Read My Mind, and lotsa things. My favorite is Sundown. I sang along with him. I clapped and I stood up.
Gordon Lightfoot and 2 of his band members at his concert in Bristol, TN
My favorite concert was Tom Jones. My mom and my dad took me to Charlotte a long time ago. Tom Jones sang She’s a Lady, Green Green Grass of Home, Daughter of Darkness and Delilah. My favorite is What’s New Pussey Cat. The girls screamed and threw their padded bras at Tom Jones. He wiped his face with those padded bras and threw them back. That was gross. But it’s funny.
I saw the Eagles, Seals and Crofts, and Linda Ronstadt a long time ago, when I live in North Carolina, at WCU. But I never saw Gordon Lightfoot until Sunday. My sister is good to me. I love concerts.
This is me and Nancy Tate. Nancy is in charge of ushers and I be an usher in July and August and lots of times. And Nancy is so pretty.
When me and my mom joined the church someone came to see us. They asked “What do you want to do in the church?” I told them “I like to usher.” I was usher when we lived in Sylva and I like to usher. I like to pass out the bulletins and show people where to sit. I like to take up the offering and take it to the alter. And I like to show people when it’s their turn to take communion.
I meet lots of people when I be usher. My captains are David Lively and Jim Dobyns. They tell me which job I have each Sunday and sometimes we sit together in the back room during the sermon. When I don’t usher I sit with my mom.
Everybody tells me I be a good usher and I see lots of the people at my store too. People from my church. Ushering is important. I try to look nice in my suit and tie. Everybody does. We have a great church.
While equal opportunity employment is a vital element in the inclusion of persons with disabilities into the community, there are other important ways to help accomplish this goal. An organization called SHOUT (Students Helping Others Understand Tomorrow) makes a concerted effort to introduce diverse groups of people to selected high school students.
SHOUT is sponsored by the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce and is designed to inform future leaders of possibilities for service in the area. For several years, Billy and I have been asked to meet with the group on Diversity Day, one of the five categories in the program. One of the stated goals for this session is: “To initiate, foster, and promote an understanding and appreciation for all people and their unique perspectives and contributions to the world.”
My thrust is the development of attitudes from tolerance to acceptance to celebration of diversity. Billy shows his slides, pointing out the normalcy of his life and the importance of his family. His real message, however takes place during his interaction with the students at lunch time and after the program. Initially reticent, they find that he is easy to talk with and fun to be around. Evaluations referred to it as “an eye-opening day,” stating, “Billy was awesome; it was definitely an amazing experience.” In planning their graduation ceremony, the students asked that Billy hand out their certificates. On the appropriate night Billy, dressed in suit and tie, shook hands and gave out certificates to all the students. At the end of the program, students write letters to thank the session leaders. One letter addressed to me read:
We were very privileged to have you speak to us on Diversity Day. Your presentation was a touching and heartwarming experience. Not only did you show us that you should not be ashamed of or try to hide your differences, but you urged everyone to CELEBRATE what makes them special. I think nearly everyone can agree with you that Billy has a way of teaching people that no one else is capable of. He has an extraordinary gift and that is something to celebrate.On behalf of everyone in the SHOUT program, thank you. We were blessed to have you!
It is a joyful opportunity to be involved with this group – future parents, professionals, and employers.
Do you know of community organizations that encourage and promote the inclusion of people with disabilities? Is there potential in any of your social organizations to develop such ideals?