by Rebecca Nielsen
There’s a lot to say and think about when it comes to kindness and inclusion. But this time I’m going to skip the deep thoughts and profound statements and give you the moral of this story right away: Inclusion is very important because exclusion feels horrible.
I don’t need to write anything quoteworthy for you to understand how much it stinks to be excluded and how great it feels to be included. If you are a living, breathing human, then I’d place a large bet on the fact that you have experienced both exclusion and inclusion in your lifetime. You know the feelings of anger, despair and sadness that come with being left out of something. You also know the feelings of joy, excitement and peace that come from feeling like you belong.
I learned of these feelings early in life when my two older sisters would not let me join their private cousin-club, “The Up-chicks.” I was banned from the exclusive meetings held in the oh-so-elegant rafters of my grandparent’s garage and I was sure no other 5 year old had ever been so rejected. And in fifth grade the leader of our girl-gang randomly decided that she didn’t like me anymore. I was pestered, then ignored, then assaulted with some of the harshest words I’d ever heard. And I was pretty sure no one’s feelings had ever been more hurt as I cried myself to sleep that night.
On the flip side, I remember never feeling more secure than the time that my girlfriends and I laughed our hearts out late into the night after ordering nothing but water cups in the drive-through. We ding-dong-ditched people and left the cups on their porches. That night the “Water Bandits” were born and so was an indestructible friendship that was solid, safe, and real.
You and I could both name many examples of inclusion and exclusion in our lives that range from the small and insignificant to the soul-crushing or blissfully joyous instances that are too complex and sacred to write about. And while I would never give up the valuable life-lessons that each side has provided me, I still can’t help but wonder why we voluntarily hurt others by excluding them? When we know exactly how awful it feels, why do we let ourselves seal a fate of exclusion for others? When we know how amazing it feels to be included, why don’t we choose to make sure others become a part of something wonderful?
I don’t know why human nature compels us to facilitate exclusivity. But I do know that humans are adaptable and changeable. We do have the ability to recognize weaknesses and overcome them. And we absolutely do have the capacity to use our positivity in life as motivation to make sure others experience the same.
As we wrap back around to where we started, I know the message here may feel oversimplified. But it really can be as simple as this: next time you feel your fears, insecurities and doubts keeping you from including others, I challenge you to instead open your heart, expand your circles and step out of your comfort zone as you remember: Inclusion is very important because exclusion feels horrible.
Rebecca Nielsen is a Provo resident of 22 years, local preschool teacher, small business owner, and Provo school board member. She and her husband are raising 4 boys and they enjoy traveling and exploring the outdoors as a family. The keys to Rebecca’s heart are: a good book, sleeping in on Saturdays, chocolate covered strawberries, and a cold Dr. Pepper.
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