Everyone Belongs

In the tenth grade, I transferred to a new school district, and it was a challenging year for me. Social groups had formed then, and I needed help figuring out the social rules, the educational system, and how things worked. I found a few others in the same boat, and it felt like I belonged to those who did not belong. It was a small group.

There have been other occasions in my life where I have felt different, and not in a good way. There have also been other occasions where I noticed someone else being excluded or shunned. That was the case one day in the church when I saw a young woman with a disability, and her responses and focus did not match others.

I was pleased to see that others were accepting. Not one was making faces, moving away, or being distracted. They carried on in worship. I later learned that this woman came to us from a church that was not accepting, one where they gave her gloves to wear so that when she clapped, in their mind at the wrong time, she would not distract people by making noise.

Recently I sat behind a child who was demonstrating repetitive behavior, swinging a rubber toy.

She also had trouble sitting still. Her family joined our church a few years ago and were happy to meet a congregation that did not practice segregating children with developmental delays. However, it was apparent that this child’s needs had grown, and I was grateful that we were so welcoming.

I was thrilled to participate in a church council meeting where we authorized funding for teachers’ aides; through that plan, families will see our commitment to inclusion. I was happy to vote for such a beautiful message.

We value inclusion because we know the importance of feeling like we belong. As we move through this month of wondering about what matters, let’s talk about belonging. Let’s practice what we believe and be inclusive at work and in our personal lives. It’s not too much to ask.