What it means to me to be included
We grew up in a pretty normal household. My parents were very young when I was born. Mom was eighteen, Dad was just twenty-one. Life was extremely stressful for them at times. Dad was in the Air Force and not paid well at all. Mom often worked as a waitress. There were times they both held down two jobs just to put food on the table and pay rent. My parents were friendly outgoing warm people and usually had many good friends.
Mom and Dad were very close to one couple, Beryl and Earl. They played an integral part in my life from the very beginning. I remember going on holiday with them in their camper. One of their favourite places to stay was a beautiful treed park near a body of water that I wasn’t allowed to go down to. If I wanted to play in water Beryl or Earl or their son Rob would go with me to the pool. Later in life I found out I wasn’t allowed down on the beach because it was a nudist camp and kids were strictly prohibited. Beryl and Earl were very comfortable in their own skin to say the least.
There were many activities for the kids away from the beach. We had a water park and a clubhouse that hosted many activities throughout the day. One day I remember Rob taking me to the clubhouse. I was about three years old, and he was maybe an early teen. As we approached we could feel the beat of rock music greeting us through the open door. The cool clubhouse was a refreshing change to the sunny heat outside. The only light in the place came from two windows and the open door. Kids of all ages dotted the narrow bleachers lining two sides of the clubhouse. In one corner was a record player blasting current rock tunes that made it irresistible for feet to keep still. Several kids were dancing in the small space left in the middle of the floor. I climbed up several levels of the bleachers and sat down to watch. Deep down I really wanted to dance like the big kids but didn’t know how and felt too shy to try. Rob was a good dancer and pulled one kid after another up to dance with him. As one song finished and another started he would happily grab a new partner. I was thinking it would be nice if he would grab me, but only held my breath and wished. Finally he asked me if I would like to dance. Shyly I nodded yes. Instantly he picked me up and swirled me around and around, bouncing me to the beat of the music. My chest expanded with such happiness to feel included. All too soon the fun was over and we headed back to the camper. Those three minutes were the best time of that whole trip for me.
What Rob did for me that day was show me what it feels like to be included. It takes little effort to make sure everyone is included in the fun. The feeling in that clubhouse that hot sunny day was of community. Warm and accepting.
To be inclusive means embracing everyone’s gifts including your own. Accepting people exactly where they are in any given moment and inviting them to take part in what you are doing. Encouraging everyone to be the best they can be doesn’t take away from anyone. Sometimes in the spirit of competition we forget to be inclusive. It is a delicate balance to strive to be the best while encouraging your opponent to also be their best without lowering ourselves to name calling and put downs. Once we realize the Universe is abundant in all ways, that there is enough for everyone, it becomes easy to be inclusive. Many things will be similar but no two things or needs will be exactly the same.
To this day it is easy for me to include others in whatever I am doing. In return I get instant friends, warm hearts and community.