When I was teenager, one of best friends was Greek. I learned a fair amount about their culture from her family. Almost every Saturday we would make plans to go shopping but we both had to do chores first. My family was bigger, so I had more help and completed my tasks first, and I would usually go to her house and wait. I tried to offer to help, but there was a Greek rule: “You can only sweep in the house if you sleep in the house.” That made some sense; if you sleep in the house, you should take care of the house.
There were other Greek rules and wisdom which made less sense. Here is another example. Her mom would say to me, “May you marry a Greek.” This was a wonderful wish for a great husband. In her next breath, she would turn to her sons and say the same thing! How can that work? I would not be able to marry a Greek if Greeks can only marry other Greeks. I came to realize this had a lot to do with preserving tradition, and keeping their faith and family practices intact. Those traditions can be described as “culture.”
We have the same challenge in our services. People who have disabilities may feel more comfortable staying connected to other people with disabilities, and keeping some of that culture. Here is an example: I worked with a group of young adults with intellectual disabilities. They had jobs, traveled to work by public transit, and shopped on their own. In fact, they needed only intermittent support from family or paid staff. They did, however, want a social life with other people with disabilities. They wanted to meet people they might date. Despite some objections, we created a social club, held it on Saturdays, and located it a day center which was only used during the week.
The extreme ‘inclusion’ idea would say we made a mistake, but I remember getting some pretty good feedback from those that participated.
We can tell people they must be segregated for their own good, or we can tell people they must be integrated for their own good. Both ways would be extreme. We should be aware of both extremes, but also realize that everyone should be able to understand their full array of options and choose what they want out of life, and what environments they want to be a part of.
I want to start a movement. Social responsibility is about the achievement of someone’s life dreams, and most dreams are not extreme.