While April is just beginning, March was Disability Awareness month, and I was able to schedule some time out this week prior to the end of the month at work to get back to my “WHY”… Supporting people we serve to have their best possible lives and helping others see each person as the unique, talented, and CAPABLE person he/she is!
I have had the privilege of guiding an art class with a group of 9 people we support in exploring dying of textiles. Those in the group had the opportunity to participate in a variety of techniques including tie dyeing, and using ice, shaving cream, and fiber reactive dyes. The group produced a variety of items from hair scrunchies, scarves, dog bandanas, to yoga bags and more. The results were phenomenal and will result in products which will earn the artists commissions. Two of the ladies, who volunteered to do the task I dreaded most, ironing, were finishing up that process as we tallied up the inventory value and commissions that will result as the items sell. They were pleasantly surprised to learn not only how much inventory we have built for the Artisan Program but that this type of project results in a commission comparable to the hourly wage of many of our local factory jobs.
This project was great fun for all of us, allowing time to dive in, be creative, catch up on news about what is going on in people’s lives, and see how many times Pam sticks her hands into containers with dye without gloves!
The reactions of those who participated this time when they saw their work was a further reinforcement that this is where I needed to be this week, not with reports, metrics, plans, and meetings, but remembering WHY we do what we do. The smiles, straighter postures, and pride of sharing their work with peers, support staff, and others reflects the confidence that comes with success and feeling the value of one’s contributions.
As we started sharing results both as we were working and as the items were being prepped for sale, we got many terrific comments, which included “beautiful”, “stunning”, “professional”, “I want ___”, and “amazing”. Many of those who saw the results seemed surprised, which struck me, as this included people with significant experience in working with people with disabilities.
It can be so easy to see a person we serve as their disability, what they cannot do and where they struggle instead of seeing their potential to do amazing things. The key is, and always has been, finding that one thing that taps into that potential. Everyone needs to be seen, accepted and valued as the amazing and talented person that they are!
Let that be a reminder as we step from March, which is Disability Awareness month, into April. It’s not the disability that is important. It is the person!
All the best!