What a Teen with Down Syndrome Can Teach Us About the Joy of Work
Religion & Liberty Online

What a Teen with Down Syndrome Can Teach Us About the Joy of Work

In an enthusiastic reaction to his first job offer, Ben Sunderman, a 19-year-old with Down syndrome, has spread lots of smiles across the internet. In doing so, he reminds us of the power of work to bring joy to human lives, and of the gift-giving capacity God has given to each of us, including those we often dismiss as “disabled.”

Caught on video by his mother, Sunderman literally jumps for joy after reading about his acceptance to an internship at Embassy Suites. “I did it!” he yells. “I got a job!”

Watch the full video:

For the broader story, see the following interview with his family:


The video has gone viral and Sunderman’s joy is universally contagious. But when it comes to so many others in his situation, how often do we assume that they have little to offer, whether in the marketplace or otherwise? How often do we downplay or fail to recognize the gifts that those with “disabilities” are created and called to share with those around them?

As Jordan Ballor has written on this same subject, “Each one of us, created in the image of God, has the capacity to be a productive steward of some kind.” God has blessed each of us with particular gifts, talents, and capacity.

When we see Sunderman’s reaction, we are inspired because we are witnessing someone with God-given creator potential be recognized and affirmed for who he really is  empowered to do what he was created to do. This can come from any sphere, of course, but here, in the context of business, the work of Sunderman’s hands will be oriented and channeled daily in the service of neighbor, and thus offered up to God. He will participate in economic transformation and all the transcendent blessing and beauty that comes along with it. He will pour out his gifts into the economic order, and it’s a blessing to behold.

This happens far more than we think — from the Costco worker to the restaurant owner to the  goldsmith to the intern at Embassy Suites— and we should continue to hope for a society where such arrangements are encouraged, celebrated, and embraced.

Joseph Sunde

Joseph Sunde's work has appeared in venues such as the Foundation for Economic Education, First Things, The Christian Post, The Stream, Intellectual Takeout, Patheos, LifeSiteNews, The City, Charisma News, The Green Room, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work, as well as on PowerBlog. He resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and four children.