It’s often easy to look at people with cognitive disabilities with pity. However they can live happily and productively.
Few show that more than Freia David, 52, of Needham, Mass.
David took part in a program designed to get people with cognitive disabilities working in the community. She and several others started training at the local McDonalds. While others didn’t make it through the six-month training, she did.
And she found a home.
While two of her peers did not finish the six-month training, the young woman with Down syndrome quickly warmed to the fast-food work, wiping down counters, filling ketchup dispensers, and greeting customers with a smile. Then she got a chance at the french fry station, and Freia David — whose given name sounds like “fryer” spoken with a strong Boston accent — responded as if she were born to it.
That was 1984.
In her 32 years at McDonald’s, Freia David had served close to 1 million pounds of its famed french fries
For the next 32 years, five days a week, she has spent the lunch rush frying, salting, and boxing fries at the Needham McDonald’s, always arriving an hour early, sometimes dancing in place before the stainless steel Frymaster. On Saturdays, she returns with her mother to eat lunch and see friends, day-off visits filled with hugs and high-fives.
David, 52, was closing in on 1 million pounds of fries served when her mother, Anneliese, an elegant and energetic 90, noticed that her daughter was showing signs of forgetfulness. Early onset dementia is common among people with Down syndrome, and Anneliese David worried for her safety around fryer oil and heat lamps.
She urged her daughter to retire. Am I being fired? David asked her mother. No, she reassured her. But it was time to go.
David didn’t want to retire, but sometimes people have to retire when they don’t want to. However, the McDonald’s sent her out in style.
They put up a banner in the restaurant commemorating her 32 years of service and had a party. David’s mother didn’t believe many people would show up. Maybe a few friends. Instead, over 100 people were there to honor David.
You know, there’s a lot people could learn from Freia David. After 32 years in the same spot, frying french fries for possibly millions of people, she never really wanted to leave. This is someone who probably could have gotten away with not working a day in her life, but she wanted to be independent, so she worked.
The world is richer for people like her, that’s for sure.
*All of us at SPN wish Ms.David a happy retirement!