By Kelly Kuhlman & Aimee Latuszek
Reveal started the year out with a team building event, by touching upon our core values. We asked the Inside Out Club, to visit Reveal and provide us with some lessons we can take with us out on the road, in the office and at home.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Inside Out Club, they instill kids with “human skills” necessary to thrive in their lives, schools and later in their jobs and community. They do this by focusing on building character in kids and families, i.e. self-awareness, kindness, and empathy. This is accomplished with fun learning and volunteer activities with a deeper meaning. A key goal for the kids is to be connected to themselves, to others and their community.
On January 26, 2018, Marion Ruthig, Founder and Executive Director of the Inside Out Club educated our team about Celebrate Differences. At this event, we went through three exercises to understand how it feels to have different disabilities.
The exercise started out by receiving a blank piece of paper to write down all the things we were thinking of that we had to get done later that day, week etc. This ‘brain dump’ allowed our employees take their minds off of the day in order to effectively experience first hand what it is like to live with disabilities, and focus on the activity at hand.
The opening presentation started out with a powerful video (https://youtu.be/Lr4_dOorquQ) that allows you to experience what a child with Autism and their family may be going through when they visit a public place, such as a shopping mall. This video is shown from a child with Autism’s view. If you saw this in a mall, not knowing the child had Autism, what would you think? That was the same question Marion asked us. She responded by teaching us to be kind and not to be so quick to judge the struggling parent or child in this situation. We were advised to ask the parent of the child if they need any assistance and to be open-minded about offering help. Even if the parent states they do not need help at the time, Marion taught us that just the simple act of offering a second pair of hands could be a huge relief. Through this, we learned compassion for those going through situations we may not be able to comprehend.
Next, we each put on a button-down shirt and were asked to try and button our shirts while wearing dishwashing gloves. What a challenge… This exercise was used to try and show us what it is like to have a physical disability. I feel we all were challenged by this and realized for someone with a physical disability, something as easy as buttoning your shirt can take 10x as long and become difficult, and frustrating. Patience, we learned, was the key to this activity. As some struggled, help was offered all around. About 10 minutes was spent on this activity, and by the end of it, most of us only could muster to button a single button. This activity was definitely an immense eye opener for all of us. Through this lesson, we learned a new sense of empathy for those who have physical disabilities.
Lastly, we were all provided a paper with different colors and font size that included Reveal job descriptions to read out loud to the group. These terms were familiar to all, but the catch to this activity was to read out loud while wearing goggles that had Vaseline rubbed on the front. This we felt was merely impossible, everything was blurry and very hard to focus on any text on the paper. As you looked around the room at larger objects or other people you saw only blurred color and very abstract outline of images. After staring helplessly at our papers for a few minutes, Marion asked if anyone felt brave enough to read from their papers aloud. No one volunteered since reading was difficult enough without having to think of correctly pronouncing words and sentences. With this lesson, our staff experienced first hand how someone with a visual impairment may feel in a classroom when prompted to read. Through this activity, we learned a new understanding for those who are not able to see as easily as we can.
After each exercise, we all talked about how it made us feel, what we experienced and how we can relate these experiences while out in the field, in public or at home. This is a reminder to practice being more mindful of others around us. I believe this exercise was a good reminder to all of us that not all disabilities are visible, that you should think before you judge and be kind to all.
Something this exercise reminded me of was when I worked with an individual and they periodically used to say, “accept people for who they are, they all bring something unique to the table” even when given the simplest tasks. One’s first instinct would probably be to judge them entirely, given that the tasks assigned were easy in nature. However, as I learned through Inside Out Club, I may not know what is going through that particular employee’s individual life, as well as personal life. Maybe this individual is dealing with a sick child at home and did not get enough rest the night before. Perhaps this employee has an illness that is not visible just by looking at them, and they are struggling to manage it.
However, now I am armed with the tools I have learned through this opportunity. I know I need to step back, empathize, and attempt to understand what this individual may be going through if I see they are struggling. That bit of kindness we can share instead of getting frustrated and fed up helps everyone feel valued and respected.
Overall, the staff agreed that this experience was wonderful to go through, and we are thankful for Inside Out Club and Marion who came to our office in a personable and educational manner. She helped our team to experience compassion in a new light. Through these valuable activities, we learned “human skills” that can be used in our personal lives, and in public.