Mr. and Mrs. Johnson working together.

Bryan loves to labor. He has ever since he was little. Ever eager to be with Mom in the kitchen cooking, cleaning, helping Dad with raking leaves, washing cars, making things in the workshop, and so on, Bryan has enjoyed being a helper, a laborer.

When he was fourteen, Bryan got his first job at our local McDonalds. We secured an agency to provide job coaching assistance. Perhaps he was too young for the job. He received it before his A.D.D. diagnosis and was not on medication. This set him up for failure. Although Bryan had a strong work ethic, distractions in the work place hampered his efforts to stay focused. The job coach expressed his frustration with Bryan and would constantly tell us about his other “star” worker who did so well in the same position. Certainly not helpful to our situation! Some days he would work beautifully and other days he would wander around the restaurant aimlessly.

The beginning of the end of that first formal work experience was when Bryan was working one fall evening and a group of teen boys came in to order food. They saw Bryan straightening up the condiments and went over to him and jeered at him “We’re going to kill you!” Bryan was scared to death and reported this to his manager who called the police. The situation calmed down, but from then on, Bryan was afraid to go to work there. We ended that job quickly.

Once Bryan enrolled in the Intermediate Unit Spirit Program when he was sixteen, he enjoyed more success in the world of work. A strong work ethic was fostered immediately by his teachers and new job coach. Although he was paid a pittance of $ .10 and hour, Bryan strove to get his full “paycheck” by working hard at many various jobs during his school day. He made name signs for the faculty, helped grow plants in the school greenhouse, crafted a park bench (which still sits in our backyard garden) and learned countless skills which could be used once he graduated. It made him very marketable. The teachers also stressed the need for Bryan to act like a young man and to cut the “cutesy” attitude which he had been using to endear himself to others. He certainly grew up during those formative high school years!

While still in school, Bryan worked at various jobs in the community – both paid and volunteer positions. He cleaned the cafeteria at Doylestown Hospital, painted paths at Pine Run Retirement Community, worked at Atlantic Greenhouse and then found a position, starting work on his twenty-first birthday, at a local grocery store. He held this position until the store franchise folded, then was rehired by a new chain in the same location.

As this job was only a few days a week, Bryan also snagged a job at a start up company which was a lo-carb bakery, O-So-Lo foods. He loved this job as he was able to mix the batter and work in the kitchen making the baked goods. Right out of high school, he was a very busy guy.

Unfortunately, after two years the bakery went Chapter 11 and the grocery store changed hands again, offering him only one day a week. New part-time positions cropped up at CVS and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Both were cleaning positions.

However, Bryan wanted daily employment. My principal at the time lobbied for Bryan to get a job running the dishwasher at the elementary school where I worked. He loved that job. My students called him “Mr. Johnson” and he was so proud to see his picture included as part of the staff directory for several years (see above picture).

Once Bryan moved into the apartment in which he still resides, further away from our home, he decided he’d like to get a job closer to where he lived. The local Giant supermarket hired him three days a week for which we were grateful. However, once the store began using computer-generated work schedules and Bryan’s hours were different each week with times and days worked, it got quite complicated scheduling rides for him with the local transportation company. Summers and holidays saw the reduction of hours as college and high school students were given hours and Bryan’s were cut back. Gone were the days of manager-generated schedules where Bryan’s hours were consistent and generous.

At this point, Bryan had worked with at least seven different job coaches out of four different agencies. Some were great. Some were not so great. On one of his shifts at Giant, his coach asked if Bryan could bag groceries at one particular check-out counter which had need of a bagger due to long lines. The cashier snapped, “No THANK you. Not at MY counter!” Right in front of coach, customers and Bryan. He also had a co-worker who made fun of him. Based on that discrimination and hostile work environment, we found ourselves once again on the job hunt.

That’s when Bryan got his current position working in the stock room and on the floor at Marshall’s/Home Goods two years ago. He was cut to one day a week the first year. But, at our urging and thanks to the pandemic employee shortage, Bryan has been consistently working three days a week for several months now. He loves stocking shelves, especially working with tech, electronics and the candy aisle!

His work environment will most definitely change in the future. Bryan’s work history proves that. But, no matter what, Bryan loves his jobs. He displays a loyalty, appreciation and dedication to his job that many others do not manifest. On the way to our Labor Day family picnic Monday, Bryan fretted that even though he told his managers he wouldn’t be there Monday, they may not have understood him. His roommate assured him he was signed out. He gets upset when the bus is late to pick him up or forgets to get him. When we are together as a family in the evening, Bryan is quick to remind us that this is his “work night” and he needs to have time to get to bed early and be prepared for the next day of labor.

Would that we all could have this desire, dedication and zeal for the jobs which we take for granted so easily!

2 thoughts on “Labor

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