Anne Mitchell has been a popular guest blogger on United Media Now and a regular commentator. Her insight into disabilities and our acceptance into society has always piqued my interest. Please join me in welcoming Anne once again as our guest blogger where she will talk about an exciting workshop she will be holding in Indianapolis on June 11 & 12.
We often think that creating a culture is something that just happens in societies or is somehow outside our personal control or contribution. Yet “culture”, (as defined by http://www.dictionary.com :the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group) occurs every place we find ourselves. Our families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces – all have distinct cultures which emerge from the people in those places. Each of us can, and does, have a very real impact on the creation of the culture in the places we spend time.
So let’s think about a couple of places specifically where we find the culture harmful for some people – schools and workplaces. We know that kids and workers who are different in some way – having an obvious disability, having a different color skin, being gay – are not as easily accepted, have fewer friends, have fewer opportunities for advancement, are not invited into decision making as often, etc. The list is seemingly endless. And the culture (the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular group) supports all of this, allowing it to continue.
It is the behaviors and beliefs of the majority that have such a strong impact on those in the minority. It is not the issue itself – having a disability, being a different color, being gay – that creates the culture. And yes, the cultures within specific places are in some ways dependent on the larger societal culture but the good news is they are not controlled by the larger culture. And since there are fewer people in individual schools and workplaces, we have a much greater ability to change those cultures. And changing those cultures will eventually have an impact on the larger culture.
Why should we worry about changing a culture that seemingly works for most and harms but a few? Besides the obvious – the harm can often be so great as to cause a person to give up on life or to live a life in pain and suffering – there are many other costs to all of us. Costs include: not knowing a best friend; losing the creativity, insight and potential problem solving of different perspectives; the guilt of keeping someone down; the financial costs of supporting people who are capable of supporting themselves fully or in part; the joy of living in a truly just society.
The really great news is that there are lots of simple practices we can each use to get to know ourselves and each other in new ways, ways that create more sustainable and just cultures in the places we find ourselves. Please consider coming to the workshop “Building Community at Home and In Your Workplace” June 11 and 12 in Indianapolis. This workshop offers participants the opportunity to learn and experience a variety of practices that can help build a culture where everyone belongs and has something of importance to contribute. Click here to learn more and to register!