How a Chick-Fil-A Employee Changed My Idea of “Meaningful” Work


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meaningful work people with down syndrome

Last week I was eating lunch at a local Chick-Fil-A when I noticed a young women with Down syndrome working at this particular location. (As a parent of a child with Down syndrome I’m hyper aware anytime a see someone with Down syndrome, especially when they are working. It encourages me!) As I was getting my lunch I overheard another employee ask her to wipe off a huge stack of plastic trays and place a paper tray liner on them.

I sat down to eat my lunch and watched as the women with Down syndrome faithfully preformed the task assigned to her. I started to think about my own son. How I deeply desire for him to do something “meaningful” with his life. Something more “important” than wiping off plastic trays.

“Meaning” Is Much More Than What You “Do”

I confess that I sometimes have a very small minded view of what it means for one to do something “meaningful” with ones life. Having “meaning” doesn’t mean you have to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a pastor, or wear a suit everyday to work. No, meaningful work is something much deeper than that.

Webster’s directory defines “meaningful” as:

 having a meaning or purpose

Did you catch that? Meaningful work means that you have meaning or that you have a purpose as you work. It’s not about your specific job description or tasks assigned to you – it’s about you! No matter what you do in life, if you wake up everyday with a purpose, your work is meaningful!

It doesn’t matter if you’re wiping down plastic trays, or preforming heart surgery – you can determine if your work is meaningful or not.

Your meaning doesn’t come from what you do, it comes from who you are!

What’s Your Purpose?

down syndrome brothers proud happy

The question you have to ask yourself is, “Why do I do what I do?” Why do you get out of bed every morning and do what you do? If you say, “for a paycheck” I want you to think bigger than that. I want you to ask yourself why do you do what you do? Answer that question, then wake up every day and live that out!

For the girl with Down syndrome working at this Chick-Fil-A I bet she would say something like, ” to contribute to society,” or to “show the world that people with Down syndrome can work just like everyone else” or something to that effect.

Her work is extremely meaningful. Every day that she goes to work she has go deal with people starring at her, or talking down to her, or maybe even being afraid of her because they have never met anyone with Down syndrome before – yet she does it. She shakes off all of that, goes to work, and her life (and work) has great meaning, no matter what “task” she is doing.

Answer the question of “why” and not “what” and you’ll find much more “meaning” in whatever you do.

Noah’s Probably Not Going To Be a Doctor, Or a Lawyer, Or an Astronaut…and That’s Ok.

Noah has Down syndrome, and one of the characteristics of Down syndrome is cognitive delays. Unless there is some medical miracle in Noah’s lifetime that helps people with Down syndrome with this, his cognitive ability will more than likely prevent him from becoming a Doctor, or a lawyer, or an astronaut. Sometimes we say things like, “He can do anything he wants to.” As nice as that statement is, it isn’t true. It’s not putting a limit on Noah, it’s defining reality. Don’t get me wrong, if he really wants to try to become a Doctor, I’ll stay up with him and help him study for the MCAT every night, all night – that would be awesome!

The truth of the matter is, he may end up working at Chick-Fil-A, at a car dealership, or at one of the many other companies that hire people with “special needs.” As long as he goes to work every day understanding that his purpose doesn’t come form what he does, but from who he is, I’m good with that.

In fact, at only 6 years old, Noah’s life already has tremendous meaning, purpose, and impact. He reaches people all around the world through this blog, our Facebook page, and Instagram as he shows the world what life is like raising a chid with Down syndrome.

To the Girl Working at Chick-Fil-A…

To the girl working at Chick-Fil-A, thank you. Thank you for working hard and for showing the world every day just by your presence that people with Down syndrome are capable of working just like anyone else. Thank for probably putting up some ignorant people every day who say rude things (both knowingly and unknowingly.) Thanks for reminding my idea of “meaning”is pretty small sometimes. Thanks for paving the way for children like Noah to have jobs as they grow up. I don’t know you, but I appreciate you.

To Noah – you may not be able to do “anything” you want to do, but you’ll be able to have meaning in whatever it is you do. In fact, as I said above your life already has great meaning. I love you so much and so I’m proud to be your dad. I’m proud of all the milestones you’ve already achieved, and am thankful to have a front row seat to all that God is going to do in and through your life (and already has!) I hope I do a good job of teaching you that meaning comes from who you are as a person created in the image of God more than anything you’ll ever “do.” – I love you! – Dad

To parents of children with Down syndrome, or other “disabilities;” how do you feel about the future for your children? How do you feel when you see someone with “special needs” working at a company that you’re doing business with? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!

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