Count your blessings. Be grateful for what you have. Stop and smell the roses. It’s likely most of us have heard all of the above at various time throughout our lives.
Far too often, however, it’s easier to focus on that burr under the saddle, no matter how minute, and bellyache about our problems. That, despite the fact that many of us, in reality, have been dealt a pretty good hand overall.
Just how good is sometimes evident when one is shown how the “other half,” for lack of a better term, lives.
The New York Times earlier this month ran a story about Leon Jones, a 64-year-old poultry worker who lives and works just up the road from me in Newberry, SC.
If you’re looking for someone who has a good reason to be less than happy with his lot in life, Jones would seem to be a good candidate.
According to the Times’ story, Jones has “an intellectual disability and a swollen right hand that aches from 40 years of hanging live turkeys on shackles that swing them to their slaughter. His wallet contains no photos or identification, as if, officially, he does not exist.”
Born in Texas, Jones was recruited from the Abilene State School, an institution for people with developmental disabilities, “only to wind up living in virtual servitude, without many basic rights,” the publication added.
He is employed as a contract worker and hired out to the Kraft Foods plant in Newberry. He lives in a rundown bunkhouse, sharing space with itinerant workers, many of whom come and go with the seasons.
The Times described his “home” thus: “His small bed was in a corner, a few feet from a young man wearing a black-knit ‘Jesus’ cap and watching Spanish-language television at a loud volume, and not far from a bathroom with open stalls and a wet floor. Mr. Jones’s locker contained clothes, cowboy boots and a plastic envelope of old cards and letters, the last one from 1992.”
In short, Jones has few amenities and no connection to government services for people with disabilities. He does have a brother, Carl Wayne, but the two haven’t seen each other in at least 40 years because the people who hired them decades ago eventually decided to send Leon to South Carolina and Carl Wayne to the Midwest. The latter is currently in Iowa.
Leon Jones earns $8 an hour. His paychecks, which total about $800 a month, and his Social Security payments, are deposited directly into an “association” account, from which the costs of his room and board are deducted.
I found the story unsettling and heart-rending. Given that Newberry is just 30 minutes north of my own home, I decided to see if I could locate Leon Jones.