Courage To Include – Are We Truly Including Others In Our Life?
Are you really including others in your life? Carol talks about true inclusivity and encourages you to have the courage to include everyone.
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What Is True Inclusion?
Have you ever waited on the sidelines for your name to be called to be part of the team? Were you one of the first chosen or the last? As a young girl, I never tended to be called first for a sports team at school nor second or third. I often waited until the team captain had no choice but to add me to the team. I understood since I knew sports were not something I did very well. I could jump rope including double Dutch with ease and enjoyed it. Playing jacks had its benefits since I often won. But ball, volleyball, broomball or any other team sports were a struggle for me and therefore I could not add much to anyone’s team. This did not mean I wished it were different – wished my name got called sooner. I wanted to be included. I wanted to belong. I think we all have this desire. No one likes to sit on the outside and look in.
Today we hear a lot about places needing to be inclusive to those who are different than what might be considered the average in society. We hear this in reference to many groups of people but I want to talk a bit today about those with different learning abilities than what might be considered average by society’s standards, although the analogy can apply to anyone who feels excluded.
What is true inclusion? Schools, classrooms and even workplaces might say they are inclusive but are they really? Does having someone with special needs sitting in the classroom or taking a space at a workplace mean they are included? Sometimes they are but often they are not. Yes, they are in the classroom and job site but not really part of the group. Are churches inclusive of those who have different abilities?
Are You Really Including Others?
If I invite you to a party at my house and you show up at the door, I have a choice. I can invite you in or leave you outside. Since I invited you, I ask you to come in. I might take your coat and talk a few pleasantries about the weather. Then I offer you a seat by the door and go back to attend to my other guests. You are at my home, invited inside and have a seat at the door.
Or I could treat you in this manner. Since I invited you, I ask you to come in. I hang up your coat and usher you into the living room where everyone is assembled. I introduce you around the room, offer you refreshments and make sure you have all that you need. I check in with you to make sure you are having a good time.
Two scenarios about the guest you invited to the party – which one is really including the person into your party, your life?
We might shake our heads at this analogy. It is so obvious who is included totally and who is there in your house but not brought further into the party than a seat at the door. They are still on the outside of the action looking in, only now they see clearly what they are missing.
But when we deal with life, in school, the workplace, organizations or even family, are we truly including those who have disabilities – who learn differently than we do? It is a question I remind myself of often. It is part of the puzzle pieces of many people’s lives, either because they are the person with a disability or a parent or family member of the person with those special needs.
This subject is near and dear to my heart because my youngest daughter has mild cerebral palsy, epilepsy and learning disabilities. Everything she can do is medically impossible which is our own miracle and a story for another day. She also has some special needs many other people do not have.
Throughout the years of her life, I have worked hard to help teachers and other students understand the difference of my daughter simply being in the classroom and being part of the classroom. Sometimes they understood but not always. In the cases when a teacher did not understand, she or he could not help the other students understand why Amee looked the same as them but could not do everything they could do. Then Amee had a hard year of feeling rejected, excluded and alone. But the other students also missed out on something in those years. They missed getting to know someone who would be a loyal friend. Amee would often come home in those years and say, “Mom don’t they know I just want to be their friend?”
In the years where she had a teacher who tried hard to understand and truly include her in the activities of the classroom, the student had a chance to learn information to help alleviate their fear of the unknown. They had a chance to try and understand someone who learned differently than they did and begin to learn how to truly include. I wish I could tell you those years had been perfect but we are an imperfect people who struggle with understanding things we don’t understand or have never experienced. I can tell you that Amee had much better years with at least most of the students including her to some extent.
The Courage Of Including Others
Togetherness – helping each other – including. Sometimes it takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and include others who are different than us. It might be a disability. It might be because they speak a different language and have customs we are unfamiliar with. It might be they are new in the community and we already have our circle of friends. But God tells us that we are to encourage each other, forgive each other, love each other and show kindness to each other. I love to read how Jesus touched the lepers as he healed them. He touched the untouchables. He showed kindness, love and mercy.
Are we willing to have the courage to include others with puzzle pieces of special needs in our lives, our schools, our workplaces and our churches? What will it look like in our lives and in the lives of those often left sitting on the sidelines wondering why no one wants to be their friends?
Listen to Carol’s program Puzzle Pieces Of Life.
Carol Harrison B.Ed is a speaker and published author with one book, Amee’s Story and stories in twelve anthologies. She is passionate about helping people of all ages and ability levels find their voice and reach their fullest potential. She knows, through personal experience that some of life’s experiences are tougher than others. She encourages people that even in the twists and turns of life God’s amazing grace provides hope. She lives in Saskatoon, SK with her husband Brian. They have four adult children and a dozen grandchildren. Visit her website carolscorner.ca
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