Lately, I have heard a lot of people talking about BakeWorks, the newest bakery in Rapid City and a social enterprise project of Black Hills Works. I have spent a little time there myself now that I am working downtown (I highly recommend the rye bread), which has gotten me thinking about a few things I want to share.
I feel pretty lucky to be growing up in a community where the people supported by Black Hills Works—people with disabilities—are often involved in the same things I am. At my church, we have a group of people supported by BHW who are involved in meaningful ways at church, from ushering to helping with bible school to serving Wednesday night meals.
Our interactions don’t just end there. I have the chance to get to know people from Black Hills Works at Summer Nights (held every Thursday downtown) and watch movies with them at Main Street Square. I can be in a book club or dance in a musical with people from the BHW community. I can take family from out of town to the Suzie Cappa Art Center, where they always find something they want to take home. And now, someone supported by BHW will help me find the right mix of cookies from BakeWorks to bring to a meeting.
We live in a community with all kinds of unique people. When we spend time with those who are outside of our usual groups, it is a chance to learn about completely different perspectives than our own. We learn about how we are alike. We learn about tolerance. We learn that it’s okay to be different and to do things differently.
Most importantly: We are learning.
If people don’t interact with each other, they tend to form misunderstanding and prejudice. This is a struggle for any individual to overcome, but entire communities are held back when we neglect the purpose of community—to mix and to become better than we are on our own.
My older brother is a wrestler. Last year, there were people supported from Black Hills Works who came to some of his matches and cheered him on like he was a rock star. Of course the wrestlers LOVED this. It’s always fun to hear people cheering for you. A few days after one of his matches, my brother asked our mom if there was some way he could get involved in Special Olympics. I’m not sure he would have thought of this if he hadn’t met the people from BHW supporting him in something he cares about. It seems to me this is how you go about making friends.
Because of these experiences, as I journey through life I am going to take with me a perception of people with disabilities as people who are capable, talented, interesting and helpful. People who like to have fun and enjoy great cookies. People who are not that different from me.