Randy Lewis

Randy Lewis and his son Austin

Those with disabilities face unique challenges in the workplace and with regards to vocation. As I recently wrote regarding the story of Jamie Bérubé, a young man with Down syndrome, we ought to be more attuned to these challenges and respond accordingly, rejecting limited notions of “value” and instead viewing all human persons as creators and contributors.

I was therefore heartened to read the story of Randy Lewis, a senior vice president at Walgreens, whose son, Austin, faced similar obstacles as someone with autism, but who responded by creating new opportunities for Austin and others like him.

Lewis outlines the full story in his book, No Greatness without Goodness, but offers a good summary in a recent article for Christianity Today, beginning with the change that took place in his own perspective:

As a parent and an employer, I saw the obstacles that people with disabilities face in securing employment. They may not be able to get through the on-line application process, may not interview well, may not be able to learn the way we are used to training, may have inconsistency in their employment history. They face death by a thousand cuts. And the unkindest cut? The belief by 99.999% of us that people with disabilities really cannot do any job as well as a typically-abled person.

Watching my son progress taught me that we underestimate the abilities and contribution of people on the margins. Seeing the way Austin is dismissed or ignored by others gave me the courage to stand up for those who are unjustly overlooked and ignored. Loving my son helped me understand the pain of parents everywhere who lie in bed at night worrying about what will happen to their children after they are gone. A job could change the arc of a life. A job could provide independence. It could mean friends and a social life. A job could be a source of satisfaction and purpose. (emphasis added)

Lewis became so moved by the untapped potential of his son that he decided to take action, pursuing a real, tangible way for those with disabilities to add value in the marketplace.

That opportunity eventually emerged at Walgreens, which was planning to build a new mission critical center. “This was the chance I’d been waiting for,” he writes. “Why couldn’t we build this super center in such a way that people with disabilities would be able to perform as well as anyone in the world?”

And build it they did, with the eventual goal of employing 200 people with disabilities, each of whom would perform “the same jobs, held to the same standards, earning the same pay” as everyone else.

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Walgreens Distribution Center

The result is striking:

Employing people with disabilities unleashed a tremendous source of creativity – the kind that can only come from a lifetime of having to learn how to do things differently because you can’t do things like everyone else. Everyone benefited, not just people with disabilities.

We learned a lot about employing people with disabilities effectively. More importantly, we learned a lot as leaders and we learned a lot about ourselves. We found that we were all better people than we thought we were – more resourceful and more compassionate, more willing to work together and more intent on bringing out the best in all of us.

This was a success because it tapped into that deep longing in each of us to become part of something bigger than ourselves and to leave the world a better place. That inborn desire is a great force just waiting to be set free. Not only in private life but in the work world. And as this story shows, business can do good and be profitable too. (emphasis added)

Lewis expanded his economic imagination, and what he found created wealth, opportunity, joy, and service that was up until that point ignored and tossed to the wayside.

I pray that more people, particularly Christians, would follow his example.

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles DVD & Blu-Ray Combo Pack

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles DVD & Blu-Ray Combo Pack

Black Friday Special: Limit 5 per customer

For the Life of the World is an entertaining film series that explores the deeper meaning of Salvation. Have you ever wondered, “What is my Salvation actually FOR?” Is it only about personal atonement, about getting to heaven, or something that comes later? Is it just to have a “friend in Jesus?”

Join Evan Koons and his friends – Stephen Grabill, Amy Sherman, Anthony Bradley, Makoto Fujimura, John M. Perkins, Tim Royer and Dwight Gibson – as they discover a “new perspective,” the BIGGER picture of what it means to be “in the world, not of it.” This seven-part film series will help you, your friends, church or organization investigate God’s Economy of All Things – OIKONOMIA (a Greek word that has a lot to say about God’s plan for his creation, the world, and us.)

This Combo Pack includes a letter from Evan and two discs for your player of choice: DVD and Blu-ray. Enjoy seven episodes around 20 minutes each, along with episode teaser videos, a series trailer, and bonus content.

Explore how God’s purposes are woven into every area of our lives: family, work, art, charity, education, government, recreation and all creation! The Bible calls us Strangers and Pilgrims, living in "the now and not yet" of God’s Kingdom Come on earth. We are also called to be salt and light, to have a transforming presence among our neighbors. Rediscover the role of the church and how our lives lived on earth matter in God’s plan for the world.

Designed for deep exploration, the series invites viewers to watch the series again for new insights. Also, check out the companion Field Guide to jump-start group and individual investigation and enhance the film experience! FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD Field Guides are available in print or via streaming access at StudySpace.org.