Saturday, 8 November 2008

Complex Dance - Belonging and Inclusion

In philosophy last week we discussed whether we were an 'includer' by nature - or not?

This is something that we can easily fail to develop in ourselves and may not value or develop in children. Yet the capacity and willingness to think about others and include them makes a profound difference for people of all ages. It could be a child at pre-school who is willing to share, an adult at a party who keeps an eye out for anyone standing on their own, a colleague who will take the time to show a newcomer around a workplace, or someone happy to draw others out and help them feel affirmed and welcome.

In so many situations a moment of generosity and thoughtfulness can make all the difference between someone feeling like an outsider, with all the agonies that can produce, and feeling included.

The image of a child standing alone in a crowded playground, without the protection of company and friends, certainly haunts me.

Feeling included is vital for our emotional health and wellbeing and it will affect dramatically how we think about other people as well as ourselves. It will also affect whether we see the world as essentially friendly or hostile. Because most of us underestimate our own personal power and overestimate other people's, we are likely to spend far more time worrying about being left out rather than whether and how we are including others.

Yet this is always a complex dance. We have chances to be included; we have at least as many chances to offer that vital sense of inclusion to others.

Behaving in ways that are welcoming and inclusive lifts our own spirits - at any age. In fact, being actively inclusive and friendly does wonders for most people's personal and social confidence. Nevertheless, there will always be some people who remain fearful that reaching out to others will make them seem needy or vulnerable.

It's tempting to believe that other people have an easier time feeling part of things than we do. Yet being real about our own insecurities should help us see how common they are and what we could do about them. In fact, honesty about our own social vulnerability creates a good basis for empathy and can give us the courage to be proactive rather than daunted.

Acknowledging your power to bring other people in rather than leave them out already makes a difference.

I am amazed at how many people complain about feeling left out or overlooked while never considering how they might save others from similar experiences. Including others is a win-win situation: great for them, great for ourselves.

Some people are naturally attuned to others, always keeping an eye out for those on the margins or those feeling new or unsure in any social situation. They are society's treasures and we can all learn from them. I feel very privileged to know many people like this and grateful they are part of my life.

An easy sense of belonging is essential to feeling safe, inwardly and outwardly. Whatever our age or status, we are free to appreciate that sense of belonging and to offer it freely to others.

It is an exceptionally uplifting way to move through the world!

Yet another 'Sculpture by the Sea' Exhibit - Nov 2003

Nov 2008, 'Sculpture by the Sea' - We are all very different and at the same time very similar!


McMGrad89 said...

Belonging, something I always wanted. This is probably why my mother said I used to bring home "stray" children or tell her about some "poor soul" as she put it that needed a friend. I always related with them in that I always felt left out as a child. Growing up in a little Central Texas town in the 70s with Puerto Rican parents with values that didn't match the community's made me noticeably different (in my mind.) Mom used to ask me if having these less fortunate friends made me feel better about myself. Maybe deeper down it did, but in actuality, I just didn't want anyone else to feel the same exclusion that I felt throughout my school age years.

McMGrad89 said...

PS - Well said.

Fly Girl said...

I've definitely felt both sides of this, as someone who reaches out to include others and as someone who has felt excluded.

I'm more of an includer, I guess, because I've always hated to see someone sitting alone. That's why I never felt like I belonged to any one clique in school; I tended to flit from one to the other. At one of our reunion meetings, years ago, I could remember every person (just about) whose name was brought up, while others had no clue who these former classmates were. They were the shy people and the loners who weren't the center of attention.

Even as an adult though, I have witnessed and felt the sting of exlcusion among a small group of friends. Sad that adults can't (or won't) acknowledge how their own behavior makes others feel unwelcomed.

Nice post! It does make you think.

avtcoach said...

I love this post. I spent alot of time teaching my girls about inclusion. I work in a field where "inclusion" is such an important part of developmental outcomes and success. Thank you for this thoughtful post!

Ron said...

hey .. I am an includer !!

My father was a Pastor for 39 years. I was 5 when he began. So, he and mom, with their actions, taught all of us kids how to include everyone. It may be because of that or it might be because it feels like the right thing to do. Either way, that is who I am.

oh yeah .. award for you too

miruspeg said...

I have no doubt in my mind you are ALL INCLUDERS, your blog posts confirm that 'in spades'.

Thanks for your feed-back and your stories.....they are always interesting and give me further food for thought.

Take care

JenX67 said...

Wow. I feel like less of a freak after reading this post. I am an includer to a fault, I guess. I never considered it a possible strength until now - I mean, I guess on some level I have always known that this was the right thing to do. But, the world is not always so nice to nice people. I see this play out in my daughter's life. Makes me want to pinch the heads off of 5th graders - including the girl who told her recently, "Go away. We don't want you around." Crummy little kid! See - I have so much spiritual work to do. I wanted to send her a Christmas stocking full of poo. =0 Shame on me. I think you have written about this subject with great clarity. It reminds me of a book I have that I read many years ago - "The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood." A keen awareness of everything transpiring around you is one of the advantages - that ability to even SEE that child who is left out is a gift. He/she always catches my eye. Thanks for this post. I'm going to read it again.

JenX67 said...

P.S. I see the Flaming Lip on your play list. They are from Oklahoma City. We recently named an alley in our entertainment district, Bricktown, Flaming Lips Alley.

Genny said...

This was beautiful. And I agree--generosity and including others can make all the difference. Sometimes, in ways we never even know.

Thanks for your sweet comment the other day, too. :)