Our blog is titled, "The Family God Built", and as Kenny said this past week, Buckaroos is turning into "The Business God Built!"
The past couple of weeks have been extraordinary in so many ways. It has also been exhausting, and we are all looking forward to the creation phase being done, and the running of Buckaroos "for real" to begin. Since I last shared here, we have had two Soft Openings to practice and let all our employees become familiar with our business, we have held two employee training sessions, handled a gazillion small details, and generally all of us have been working 12-14 hour days.
|Our First Pizza to be Ordered!|
I have been too tired to write, but also, if I am being honest, I have been unable to find the words to share what all has happened. Deep emotion has swirled constantly, and nailing that down to talk about is proving difficult. We have all vacillated from one moment to the next between confidence and fear, concern and excitement. Thankfully, as we have joked, I am glad we aren't all in the valley at the same time! Usually it is one of us, and it seems to rotate between us all. This week it has been my turn, but a beautiful mystery unfolded today which served as affirmation for us all.
Today, our Pastor handed Angie a note, saying someone wanted us to receive it but wanted to remain anonymous. Ang tucked it in her purse, and later when we were all in the car on our way home, she remembered it and pulled it out to open. Inside the envelope was no note, just a cashier's check for...$5,000.00.
We have no idea who to thank for this incredible generosity, which couldn't have come at a better time for me personally. It was Thursday when I admitted I was growing a little scared about the debt, as we looked at more charges for oven repairs. I had also made the call to allow a few of our special needs employees to come on in for the second Soft Opening, despite the fact that we really have no cash reserve to easily pay them. A quick check in with everyone and we decided that it was important enough to go ahead and say "yes" to those who were so eager to return for another night of work. It felt like the right thing to do, and we knew it would really matter to our employees. As Angie keeps reminding us, we need to make certain our mission is always first, and we all believe if we do that then somehow there will be enough to cover everything. How our kids ended up with such an "abundance" mindset, I am not sure, but it permeates everything they all do, and it is a regular encouragement to me as well to keep my eye on the things that matter most.
So here we were, a new major chunk needed to be spent tomorrow for the oven, and God shows up completely out of the blue through a gift from someone who will remain a beautiful mystery to us.
I can't help but ask myself why this sort of goodness happens to us so frequently. We are no more deserving than anyone else, and yet over and over again we find ourselves on the receiving end of someone's generosity. We try our very best to give back in ways we can, and yet we could live three lifetimes or more and never be able to repay the kindness so many people have shown us in big ways, sometimes anonymously. Trust me, our entire family never, ever takes it for granted. Kenny said he hopes we never lose that sense of awe when good things happen that we felt today when the contents of the envelope was revealed. We try to repay it in as many ways as we can find, but it is never the same as has been offered us because we simply don't have the means. All we really have to offer up to others, and God, is our hearts and our time. How I wish we could repay all we have been given!! Down to the last LaJoy, we all feel a strong sense of responsibility to work our hardest so that any gift such as this isn't wasted.
But I will tell you it is very hard not to feel unworthy.
Our Soft Openings have already taught us a lot, and here is what I have been thinking about over the past couple of weeks:
1) The idea that we are somehow offering opportunity to "poor disabled people" couldn't be further from the truth. What is so apparent is how much WE are being offered by our employees who Angie said today, "...feel like we have known them forever, even though we have only really worked together two or three times." We have some very special relationships already forming, we have a wonderfully delightful staff which is comprised of two-thirds folks with special needs. What we have been especially fortunate in is finding employees who all have a heart for this mission of Buckaroos, who have a unique kindness to them, and who are already proving themselves to be a wonderful supportive team where EVERYONE is equal, and some just need partnering.
2) Montrose is the best place in the world to live. I know others might disagree, but our city is a little slice of heaven, and we have been encouraged by the social media comments and in-person conversations we have had. A story shared about us by The Montrose Mirror on its Facebook page was viewed by over 15,000 people, and had 147 comments and 197 shares! Many have reached out, whether we know them or not, with words of support and celebration that this sort of business will be in town, and pledges to support us with purchases. How I hope that comes to fruition!
3) The dignity that comes from participating in meaningful work and having a work community of friends who know and accept you is something you must witness for yourself to understand. The difference in confidence level and self-esteem was evident even from one Friday night to the next, enough that it was hard for me not to shed tears over what I was seeing...the eagerness to please, the nervous pride as family members came in to see their relative actually WORKING, the father who sobbed as he saw his son working to take pizzas out of the oven and cut them to place in boxes, the hugs as they walk in the door wearing their Buckaroos shirt with such obvious pleasure. And NAME TAGS!!! With their own name on it!!! I never would have dreamed THAT would be such a huge deal, but it is.
4) How fast one stops seeing "disability" and what remains is only "my friend" or "my co-worker" after you spend just a little bit of time interacting with someone. Funny that I equate this with adoption, but in our case, our kids don't look or sound like us, and within days post adoption we literally forgot the world would be unable to easily view us as a family because of our differences. I look at my Asian sons and I see our sons, Matt, Kenny and Josh. Now, of COURSE I know we don't "match" but I don't see that from the outside, and we have all long since ceased seeing the differences, or hearing the differences such as with Olesya and Angela's strong Russian accents that have remained. That is just how our daughters sound, we are used to it, and in our world it is normal. So too, are our employees just who they are, no reservations, as we already have accepted whatever makes us different from one another and set that aside to see the human being that should be seen first, before any disability is seen.
5) People with cognitive or developmental delay are FAR more courageous than the world ever wants to give them credit for. For some reason, we tend to apply that thinking to those who "overcome" physical disabilities, and we are dismissive as a society of those with differently functioning brains. We seldom see them as being brave, we infantalize them, we talk over them rather than with them, we don't know what to do with them. People with invisible disabilities face a world in which they will never fit, and they know it. They are bullied regularly, are scared of the impatience they experience from others on a daily basis, and they tackle life with great hope when things are far more challenging for them than they ever are for the average person.
In two heartbreaking conversations, I have already had to reassure two of our employees who approached me privately and haltingly said they were scared because they had been bullied or treated very rudely in the past. I told them that no one was going to bully them or be unkind to them, and if they were, they would no longer be welcome in our store and we would protect them. I was honest, saying that we might not be able to stop someone from saying something initially, but they would always have us to protect them the best we could.
6) Once you remove the fear of disappointing someone or making a mistake and being reprimanded for it, once you create a safe place for failure to be more about trial and error than an overblown crisis, it is fascinating to see what someone is willing to try...and fail at...and try again! We can't become proficient at something that will take us tons of repetition if we aren't allowed the chance to fail multiple times and keep trying. Friday night Angela dropped 3 pizzas at once from our countertop warmer, and later another employee dropped one learning how to take pizza out of the oven. Ang and I talked about how glad we were that SHE was the one who dropped three and made a huge mess, because she knows it is safe to make a mistake and was able to model that understanding before our employee did the same thing, probably making it less uncomfortable. We have had scoops of ice cream flung as those with coordination issues try diligently to master making a cone. We will have many, many more learning experience that others might name as "mistakes", but to us, it is all part of the lengthy process of mastering something when it is difficult to us. Our motto is not to catch people doing something wrong, but to catch them doing something right and build on that. So many of our employees have experienced very little success or positive recognition in their lives from anyplace outside of their families. Maybe we can change that a little :-)
There have been many little things that have witnessed that touched me deeply, and as time goes in and I can breathe a bit I hope to share them here, for this is truly a new adventure and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us! But I can't complete the blog post without sharing the single thing that has perhaps squeezed my heart more than anything else:
If there has been a "star" at all the past two Soft Opening evenings, it has been Josh. At 16 years old, he has a compassion and patience that revealed itself in surprising new ways. Within 10 minutes the first night, he had two or three special needs young adults at the prep table with him standing beside, guiding them, encouraging them, teaching them with a gentleness of spirit that was so very special to witness. Never needing the spotlight, he has done SO much to assist his siblings, and presented a command of the kitchen instantly that had us all seeing him as more man than teenager. He exuded a confidence that I think even he hadn't expected, as he is a natural at this and will be a leader in the business despite his age. How I love all our kids, but these two nights Josh was a true shining light. Whether it was jumping in to clean at the end of the night with no guidance, stepping back to let others try new skills and nurturing them toward competence, I couldn't have loved him more than seeing how kind he was.
We are currently living within a beautiful mystery, one that reveals itself slowly day by day. What will our employees be able to do with the right support? How can we grow the business effectively so we can ensure everyone keeps their job? What does God want to happen here with Buckaroos?? Who offered such an astoundingly generous gift to us?
Are we going to make it?
We are giving it our all, each and every one of us. If we don't make it, it surely won't be from a lack of effort. It also won't be from a lack of care from others, as we are being carried in prayer by so many. We were deeply touched that over 50 people from our church traveled a little over two hours round trip to come to our soft openings. Talk about encouragement!!! Talk about making us all feel very loved and cared for!! Talk about seeing God in the faces of each and every one of them!!! We can never say thank you enough, and it goes to show you how important showing up is.
The beautiful mystery remains, and grows with each passing day. So much yet to discover, so much left to offer others of ourselves, so many new things to learn. May we be paying careful attention to what presents itself, and may we never miss seeing God in our midst.