Is it something you celebrate? Is it a backyard BBQ, a day at the lake, the end of summer or just a day off of work? For our team, it has a different meaning this year.  It is a celebration of the inspirational American work force — their strength, economic, and social contributions to the country.

We have witnessed the unstoppable spirit of hard-working Americans within the Transition2Work program — which matches injured workers with light duty work at a local nonprofit organization when their employer is unable to provide work within their restrictions during recovery. Two examples of amazing contributions by injured workers in transitional light duty were discovered by our team this week. We wanted to share these inspiring stores of what “Healing While Helping” really means.

The first example is a 45 year old Spanish-speaking migrant worker who sprained his knee on the job. Let’s call him Frank. Frank dropped out of school at age 8 to start working. Let’s think about that — he started working at age EIGHT. While many of us were complaining about homework and playing with dolls or action figures, Frank worked. Recently, he injured his knee and was not able to continue the physical work required in the fields while his knee healed. His employer arranged for light duty work with a local nonprofit during his recovery. Frank’s light duty assignment places him temporarily as an office assistant at a nonprofit organization reaching out to the Latino community. The organization provides healthcare education, English as a second language classes and a variety of other services. Frank has never worked in an office environment before and was, at first, understandably nervous. He was very quiet and often looked down at the ground — the demeanor of someone unsure about the experience.  The nonprofit supervisor saw a drastic change in Frank’s confidence the first week! He engages and interacts with customers, shares his experience with others during health fairs and helps to get the word out about flu shots and other services the organization provides. Frank is learning new skills; he is learning to speak English and how to read and write in both Spanish and English. He even has an email account now! Frank told his supervisor that he never imagined himself doing what he is now, but he enjoys it.

The second example is a truck driver with a shoulder injury doing “too good” of a job at his transitional light duty assignment at a local nonprofit. We will call him Ned. Ned reports to a an emergency shelter for his transitional duty where he greets guests, answers phones, assists in preparing food and serving meals for the guests. The supervisor at the nonprofit says, “He is doing a great job for us.  He is punctual and arrives earlier than his scheduled time and stays later at times than his scheduled departure time.  He is self-motivated, needs little instruction, has a great disposition and is friendly with everyone.  He has a great work ethic and is a joy to have around.”  His supervisor goes on to say, “Our only problem is that he is too good. When he prepares a meal for the clients and is lacking ingredients, he goes out and spends his personal money on foods that are needed here at the shelter. He is amazing.  He has spoiled us all, not only staff but most importantly the clients.”

These two stories exemplify the strength, kindness, and a willingness to go above and beyond. In both cases, their employers did not have anything they could do within their restrictions. Despite their restrictions, they obviously still have a lot to give. The impact the experience has had on them and on those they served is immeasurable.

*The names of the individuals mentioned have been changed to protect their privacy.