Stevie, a young man with Down syndrome, received a generous donation from truckers who frequented the restaurant where he worked.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy. But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn't sure I wanted one. I wasn't sure how my customers would react to Stevie.
He was short, a little dumpy with the smooth facial features and thick tongued speech of Down syndrome. I wasn't worried about most of my trucker customers because, truckers don't generally care who buses tables as long as the meat loaf platter is good and the pies are homemade.
The four wheeler drivers were the ones who concerned me; the mouthy college kids traveling to school; the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded "truckstop germ"; the pairs of white shirted business men on expense accounts who think every truckstop waitress wants to be flirted with. I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie so I closely watched him for the first few weeks. I shouldn't have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my truck regulars had adopted him as their official truckstop mascot. After that, I really didn't care what the rest of the customers thought of him.
He was like a 21-year-old in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table. Our only problem was persuading him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus dishes and glasses onto cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.
Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truckstop. Their Social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home.
That's why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work. He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with Down syndrome often had heart problems at an early age so this wasn't unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months.
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This story contains many of the elements commonly found in inspirational tales: A "mentally handicapped" person of marginal economic means who works hard to support himself and his disabled mother, who is meticulous and conscientious about his job performance, and who is well-liked by everyone he comes in contact with. Working class folks
with hearts of gold who accept him for who he is and respond with overwhelming generosity when a medical condition strains his family's limited financial resources. A bountiful outpouring of affection and material assistance which coincidentally falls on that most appropriate of holidays, Thanksgiving.
If this story doesn't describe the world as it is, it certainly describes the world as we'd like it to be.
The answers to questions about whether Stevie is a real person and whether his story as related here is true are, unfortunately, no. "Something for Stevie" is a work of fiction by author Dan Anderson, published in rpm Magazine for Truckers
in November 1998 and reprised in the 2000 book Stories for a Faithful Heart
22 July 2015
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