How Rock & Bloom redefined cultural acceptance for me

There are times in your life when the smallest gesture or the fewest words leave a lasting impact on you. For me, it was during my first week at Rock & Bloom. 

“Please make sure you block out the time you need for your afternoon prayers on the office calendar. For every day.”

David, co-founder and creative director at Rock & Bloom, gave me these instructions during my first orientation meeting. 

I joined Rock & Bloom back in June, and my first week of training coincided with the horrific murders of a Muslim family in London, ON, and a Muslim man being attacked here in Saskatoon. 

Needless to say, my emotions and fears were running high that week. It was difficult to walk anywhere without constantly looking out for pick-up trucks speeding down the street. Combine that with being the only Muslim hijab-wearing employee at a new firm, I was very nervous and very apprehensive. I wasn’t sure how I would be treated by my new colleagues. 

However, David’s words spoke volumes. That, along with an apology about the Saskatoon attack from Heather, co-founder and CEO at Rock & Bloom. It wasn’t just an empty sentiment or casual politeness you’d expect from your average Canadian. It was a genuine, deeply heart-felt apology that touched me at my core. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time I truly needed to hear that, specifically from my employers. I needed to hear that what matters to me, matters to them. 

During my first week I understood immediately the kind of culture that everyone at Rock & Bloom takes pride in. A culture of acceptance and tolerance. A culture where it truly doesn’t matter what background or religion you belong to, you will be accepted by everyone. 

Team members went out of their way to be supportive. There was no judgement of any kind if I didn’t know how to complete a particular task. I felt that every single team member was rooting for me to succeed and helped in whatever way they could. 

Drinking alcohol and going to pubs or bars is prohibited in Islam. A team lunch got changed from a pub to a restaurant so that I could attend. At a fun, out-of-office gathering, a colleague asked if it was okay for her to drink alcohol in front of me, taking my comfort into account.  Everyone was so excited to try the special chai I made, allowing me to share my traditions with the people I work with. These gestures may seem small, but for me they showed the greatest level of respect for my beliefs, culture, and personal comfort. 

I didn’t expect this level of acceptance of my faith, my appearance, and my culture in my first week. What I learned about myself was that I had also built up walls and biases that I have had to let go of. Many times in my life, it felt like “them” versus “me”. The team made sure, from the very first day, that Rock & Bloom always feels like “we” – and we’re in this together.