On Friday, March 8, Phoebe Goodman and Jim Ross gave a workshop entitled Widening the Circle: Pathways to Friendship at the Lexington Community Center. Twenty-one residential providers, SUPPORTbrokers, representatives from DDS, and Lexington residents attended the workshop, for which the basic premise was that people with friends are happier, healthier, and safer.
There may already be some programs, such as Best Buddies or Special Olympics Unified Sports, in your area that intentionally bring people with and without disabilities together with one of their goals being the development of friendships, but these are not the only ways to “widen the circle.” Ms. Goodman and Mr. Ross discussed many additional ways in which relationships between people with and without disabilities can be developed and deepened.
Among the suggestions they offered were:
- Deepen existing relationships in places you already frequent, such as your workplace
- Join one of the many recreational, social, or civic organizations, which already abound in your community
- Become involved in a faith-based group, particularly in one of its sub-groups or committees, such as choir or adult Bible study, and take part in church social events and community service opportunities
- Join a “needs”-based group, such as Weight Watchers, a bereavement group, or Alcoholics Anonymous
- Learn a new skill or seek new knowledge in community settings, such as an adult-education class at the local high school or community college
If you choose to join a recreational or special activity, such as a bird-watching group or a hiking club, make sure to learn the necessary jargon and to dress appropriately for its activities. Similarly, for groups such as church, it is important that you are familiar with particular rituals. You can improve your opportunity for successful membership in the group you join by identifying a mentor or sponsor who is welcoming and supportive, ideally someone who is already a valued member of the group. Finally, you can always use social media to reconnect with people from the past or find ways, such as throwing a block party or shoveling your neighbors’ walks, to deepen your connection with your neighbors.