One out of every five Americans has some disability. Seven percent of Americans have mental limitations or illnesses that interfere with their daily functioning. Only 16 percent of people with a severe disability such as deafness, legal blindness, intellectual disability, autism, or an inability to walk are employed. Twenty-seven percent live under the poverty level, compared with 9 percent of people without disabilities.
Randy Lewis, senior vice president of Walgreens is on a mission to change all these statistics and transform all these lives. You can read his story in a wonderful book called No Greatness without Goodness: How a Father’s Love Changed a Company and Sparked a Movement. The title is probably a play on Jim Collins’ bestselling business book, From Good To Great.
Lewis’s experience of raising an autistic son gave him a huge heart for others with disabilities. Over many years this passion developed into a massive and remarkable vision to provide meaningful, well-paid, and full-time employment for men and women with disabilities.
Lewis builds his case not so much on compassion for the disabled but on profit margins. He demonstrated that employees with disabilities have four times less absenteeism, 75% lower turnover, up to 50% higher productivity, and much better teamwork.
He persuaded Walgreens to build the most efficient distribution center of its kind in the world and staff one-third of the workforce with people who have disabilities, many of whom had never been offered a job.
He insisted that they be paid exactly the same as people without disabilities and enjoy the full benefits of full-time employment.
He then opened Walgreens’ doors to the world, even to their competitors, to share everything they’d learned in this process.
10 Reasons to Read This Book
This was one of the books on my summer reading list and has turned out to be my favorite book of the year so far. As I want to motivate you to read it for yourself, here are 10 reasons to do so.
1. It will give you a greater love for the disabled and a greater appreciation of their gifts.
2. It will inspire you to fight for justice for the disabled and to include them much more in public life.
3. It will inspire those with disabilities, and especially their caregivers and supporters, that so much more can be accomplished than is often feared.
4. It will give you an insight into the burden of fear, anxiety, and exclusion that the families of the disabled live with.
5. It will demonstrate Christian faith tried in the furnace of affliction.
6. It will call the church to emulate and exceed Walgreens. After all, if a corporation can do it, how much more can and should the church.
7. It will challenge businesses and corporations to employ more people with disabilities – not just out of compassion but out of concern for profits!
8. It will teach you leadership principles. Each of the 40 or so short chapters end with a catchy saying, a proverb, that Lewis draws from His experiences. Many of these are pure gold.
9. It will make you cry, it will make you laugh, it will make you shout with joy!
10. It will make you realize how much one person can do with God’s blessing. When Lewis was hesitating at one point, his wife Kay shared the story of Esther with him:
“Perhaps you were made vice president for such a time as this.” Then, with absolute conviction in her voice, she said, “All the angels and the powers of heaven are standing behind you.”