Tim Harris, the founder of, Tim’s Place, a restaurant in Albuquerque, introduced First Lady Michelle Obama as the keynote speaker at the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Special Olympics in Los Angeles. Tim’s known for serving up hot food with a side of heart-warming hugs. Tim has Down Syndrome, and is considered “disabled.”
He has always had the dream of opening up a restaurant and Tim has become famous for giving out over 72,000 hugs in his eatery over the four years it’s been open. He got a chance to share one with Mrs. Obama in front of 6,000 Special Olympians and guests this Saturday night! “I’ve been always born a hugger,” Tim said. “A hugging machine, that’s me.”
On the previous Thursday, Tim got the chance to bring that hug to the White House at a Special Olympics dinner hosted by the President. He gave the Commander & Chief a big bear hug. “It felt really awesome,” Tim said. “He wanted that hug ’cause his job is stressful and that hug says it all. Presidents need some encouragement once in a while, too. You know, that felt really good.” Tim’s philosophy in life and restaurants: “My favorite part of all is the people coming through the front door. My hugs are way more important than the food… The food is just food!”
In parallel, I read this Sunday’s NYT op-Ed by Ben Mattlin, author of “Miracle Boy Grows Up.” He is a lifelong wheel chair user because of a genetic condition. Mattlin is married, has two able bodied children, and is an accomplished author. He recalls being at Harvard in 1973 when he wanted to room with a so-called “able body.” He painfully recalls how a dean squashed his request for inclusion with an expressed concern how Mattlin’s disability might affect a “normal” roommate. As Mattlin now reflects, “How about how the sequestration affected him? ” Recently, 40 plus years later, his daughters came home from “Diversity Day” in high school. The theme was about being kind to people who faced difficulties. They obviously embraced kindness but what incensed Mattlin’s daughters, who have grown up with a father on wheels, was “there was almost nothing about respect, empowerment or equality.”
Recently I received a note from an executive who is playing a lead role in our companies LGBQT community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Questioning/Queer, and Transgender), asking me as Chief People Officer to reinforce our organization’s commitment to inclusiveness and diversity in the workplace. What makes me sad is that I still have to restate that we are totally committed to being a safe, inclusive, respectful, equal, empowering, workplace community. And I will relentlessly say and act that way until we no longer need the reminder. Inclusion and total acceptance of our entire community needs to be as authentic and as beautiful as getting a hug in Tim’s Place.
- We must be mono-cultural on the values of respect, accountability and abundance, (and perhaps others)? We need to also simultaneously be multi-cultural, totally inclusive AND accepting of ALL diversity. Acceptance, and empathy to all who do no harm to others makes us all much richer. Inclusiveness and embraced acceptance defines who “us” is and what “we” really stand for.
- We need to remind ourselves that the way we personally view the world is only one worldview. Spiritual intelligence and maturity comes from recognizing that our “world view” is only one perspective and one not necessarily shared by others. It is not about being right or wrong. It is about being inclusive of our individual and collective beautiful complexity while accepting our most unique selves have a vital role to play.
Inclusion and acceptance in the Triangle,
One Millennial View: I recently read an article that really intrigued me. It’s called, “You Didn’t REALLY Care About Gay Marriage.” (Who cringed? Did you cringe? That’s ok. Hear the concept out). The author’s main message is honest and important: He says, “There’s a difference between empathy and care. Let’s not confuse them.” His meaning is when we do something like become irresponsible social justice warriors behind a keyboard and post our outrages or agendas on OUR social media, we’re really just saying “Hey look at me! Look at me! Look how good of a person I am!” That post is for YOU, a pat on your own back. It’s inherently selfish. In reality, we probably didn’t REALLY do ANYTHING for the cause, besides agree. We probably wrote no Congressman, attended no meetings/marches, and certainly didn’t undergo any form of real sacrifice. Here’s an alternate idea: Embrace the beauty of inclusion to a point where you don’t NEED for it to be advertised. We’re at the point where acceptance shouldn’t be a shock. Everybody needs to feel welcome, SO welcome that drawing special attention to the idea that you have that standpoint should be weird. Of course you’re accepting. Everyone deserves the right to just “know” they’re cool, especially at work, and it would be ridiculous if they weren’t. Wouldn’t that be great?
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis