By Domenico Bettinelli, Director of Community Engagement
The heartwarming story of Needham’s Freia David has trended on Facebook and been covered in newspapers around the country. After 32 years, Freia has retired from her job at the McDonald’s in Needham this past week, yet what really is drawing the attention is not the length of her service, but the fact that Freia has Down Syndrome.
Freia was a hard worker, showing up five days a week, always arriving early, with a ready smile for customers and co-workers. She was by all accounts a model employee. Her co-workers and employers and customers certainly thought so, enough that they threw her a retirement party at the restaurant last Saturday.
The job had meant everything to David, her mother said. It had been “her life.” But when David announced she was leaving, how much she meant to the restaurant instantly became clear. Management hung a banner celebrating her 32 years and invited the community to a retirement party.
The Davids expected a few old friends to show up Monday. Instead, more than 100 people packed the McDonald’s — loyal customers, former neighbors, adults with disabilities and their relatives, and many others — all there to wish David well.
They sent her off in style — two cakes, a silver necklace adorned with a fry-carton pendant, a cut-crystal model of the restaurant, a collection of photo collages, and a stack of heart-felt cards, along with a set of her favorite Disney stuffed animals and a proclamation from the state House of Representatives. For three hours, they enjoyed complimentary fries and bites of cake in between selfies.
Freia was lucky enough to be born in 1963, well before Roe v. Wade, which has become a death sentence for unborn children with prenatal diagnoses of Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities, with some figures suggesting 70 to 90 percent of babies with such diagnoses being aborted. Parents are often convinced to carry out the abortion by those who claim the child will never have a normal life and will only be a burden on everyone else. Their quality of life will be substandard, they are told.
I think Freia David and the people of Needham have clearly put that myth to rest. Well done, Freia, and thank you not just for the french fries, but also for being a witness to the value of every human life.