Inclusion: The Kindness Culture Starts With A Conversation
Author - Kearsten Weeks
Kraken Kreative Studio
This can be a useful tool to open a conversation or share with a youth in your life.
In recent news articles, we have triggered our “feel good” serotonin, while watching viral videos of do gooders. Videos of peers reaching out to the special needs community, or a male student asking his Gay best friend to prom, or another student gifting shoes to a classmate in need. As nice as these grand gestures appear good they can be bad, they may cause you to feel good while doing or watching them, but they are not inclusive.
Inclusion (noun) is defined as “the action or state of including or of being included within a group”. You are thinking, “but the above examples are exactly that” but sadly they are not. As heartwarming as those grand gestures are, they can isolate the recipients and are typically a short lived activity. Inclusion is simply the collective actions of everyday behaviors.
The saying “It really is the little things…” holds true when actions collectively add up to define inclusion. It is the simple, “please sit with us at lunch”, “would you like to go to the game with us?”, “you should try out for the musical”, “come over after school and go swimming with us”, “your new dress is really pretty”, or asking others to join your group project verses leaving the same person to be awkwardly assigned by the teacher and so on. We are all equally looking for acceptance and inclusion but not all of us feel accepted and included. Even those who seemingly “have it all” feel excluded and exploited at times.
The above examples are the start. But there is one simple thing you can do now that will have a huge and lasting impact. You can simply be kind. Being kind isn’t occasional action. It is an everytime-towards-everyone's-choice. Kindness leds by example. Kindness is a habit. Kindness is within you. Kindness isn’t a backhanded compliment. Kindness isn’t baiting a classmate into a cyber bullying attack. Kindness isn’t asking someone to meet you at the mall with a planned ditching. Kindness isn’t starting rumors.
We are all fighting invisible battles. Most young adults have likely experienced ACEs. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is the term used to describe all types of abuse, neglect, and other potentially traumatic experiences that occur to people under the age of 18. The person sitting next to you in class could have not eaten in three days or is living in her family’s car. The kid you think is “creepy” is being physically abused at home and just wants positive interactions but doesn’t know how to be social.
We are all walking through life hoping for acceptance; trying not to stick out and desiring to feel included. But none of us are born with a map to acceptance or inclusion so we blindly try and it doesn’t always give us the results we were aiming for.
Some of us have been in school together since Kindergarten. Others just enrolled, after immigrating from another country. Another after losing his mother to Cancer and is now living with his Grandparents. As much as it appears we are all going through the same school at the same time, we are not. But the one thing we are all doing is searching for our “tribe”.
Urban Dictionary defines "the tribe" as a group of friends that becomes your family”. I am in no way saying you need to be friends with everyone. It is important to know when and where to set healthy boundaries. But what I am saying is you can be kind to everyone, allowing each of us to find our tribe, without added isolation, bullying, ridicule, embarrassment or trauma. This falls back on the rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
But again, you may not have the map to the how. This is exactly when you apply kindness. Put yourself in the other person’s place and add a layer of kindness in return. I have no doubt you will soon see the ripples of change. Good news, there is no wrong way to be kind. Whether you are the change or a recipient of the ripple, we will all feel a little bit more included.