Because We ALL Need Community!
Have you ever imagined the life of someone who never quite fits in? How they long to belong, and even when treated reasonably kindly are left on the sidelines? What if the only real relationships you had were with your family members and no one outside your family unit? How would you feel if everyone you went to school with went off to pursue college or enter the military, and you were left behind at home trying to find your place in the world alone?
Loneliness and social isolation can hit anyone, but those with disabilities are often impacted early on and it continues throughout their lives. Finding peer groups isn't simple, finding REAL relationship where someone sees all of who you are...not just your disability...is even more difficult.
Over and over again through our work at Buckaroos we are learning of the deep loneliness of our employees, and our customers are often sharing similar stories of isolation and lack of inclusion experienced by themselves, or their children or grandchildren. Being nice to someone is merely a first step, and it is at a surface level. What every human being needs is more; more depth, more connection, and more time spent together with others.
Not "Inclusion"...just simply part of the gang!
Our family has been powerfully moved by all we are learning, and we decided that though we can't change the world, we might be able to change our little corner of it. So, we had our first employee and family gathering at our home a couple of nights ago! We invited all our employees, along with anyone important in their life, to come and spend time getting to know one another better, eating a meal (definitely not pizza! Hahaha!) together, and playing games.
You know what was remarkable as the evening wore on? Once we moved past the initial discomfort of people who do not know one another gathering together, it was amazing to see how connected we all truly are. Small chat turned to deeper chat in quiet corners, laughter and teasing filled the room, and after awhile, it was clear this wasn't an artificial gathering created to "make something happen" for "those people with disabilities". Oh NO! Instead, this was a joyful, raucous, co-mingling of all kinds of people who appreciate being around one another and disabilities were not the focus, nor were they even really seen! It was kind of an organic, beautiful experience to see every single person engaged in conversations, having a great time, and being part of...a community.
A rousing game of Pictionary pitted those over 40 years old against those under 40 years old. And it was understood without saying a word that some might need a little help or an accommodation or two. No big deal was made, every person who needed a little help got it, and it was just completely natural and reflected how easy it actually is when we are intentional about including every single person, but also when we SEE the person and not just how they might be hindered here or there.
Now, I will not pretend to be the "Hostess with the Mostess"...I am not gifted at crafting beautiful table settings, finding the right words to be smooth and polished as people come to my home, and we have a typical ranch-style house with no fancy amenities inhabited by 7 people so it sure isn't spotless! But, I hope that when people enter our door they feel as some have commented about Buckaroos, that it is warm and inviting, that you know someone actually cares that you are there even if they point to the kitchen and say in great honesty, "Please, make yourself at home, grab what you need, there's the food, let's visit!"
The problem with "Inclusive" language is that over time it becomes just that...language. It becomes a task, not a relationship. This is not to say we shouldn't be intentional about inclusivity, but when it becomes part of a policy or a burden to figure out how to make it happen, it ceases to target the real meaning behind the word. But when inclusivity happens organically, when we see one another with all our failings AND gifts, it becomes something not to strive for, but that is easily lived in to.
In some ways, oddly, it is like adoption! Many people forever attach the word "adopted" to our kids, far after we have claimed one another as deeply connected family. Others will likely always see "disability" with some of our employees, but to your Buckaroos Crew, we are simply Cindy...Kenny...Caleb...Sarah...Joe...Olesya...Angie...and more. Some of us need help with some things (thank goodness for young, strong, flexible bodies to do more of the physical work for me!) and some of us need help with other things (we cover for each other at the register when making change, help peel stickers, encourage to try again when something didn't work right the first time.)
The important key here though is that together we all make a team, we balance one another out, we blend seamlessly. And we recognize that not a single one of us has the skills to do it all alone.
A City That Cares
We are taking baby steps to provide something different, something special. We want to do that at Buckaroos with our products for our customers, and we want to do it behind the counter for our employees. But we know there is no way we could have gotten this far without the people who are encouraging and supporting our work. Our wider community is an amazing place, one filled with beauty and activity, and that cares for its citizens. We have been shocked with lovely gestures from people we don't even know...flowers for our grand opening, someone sneaking $5 into my hands as they whisper, "We love what you are doing here, this is all I have extra but I want you to have it for the kids.", and perhaps the most important thing, we have people who are returning because they not only love what we serve, but what we stand for. They go hand in hand, this is NOT an establishment for pity, this is a place where community and love converge.
And we wouldn't want it any other way.