“It’s not differences that divide us. It’s our judgments about each other that do.”—Margaret Wheatley
This quote resonates with me particularly today in light of the Facebook post written by a mother who deduces that her son, Sawyer, was omitted from his classmate’s birthday party because he is different and who realizes that exclusion is a recurring pattern in his life. The mother of the birthday boy invited the entire class of students except for Sawyer, a boy with Down syndrome. The situation is touching and reveals that we still have work to do in fostering inclusiveness.
What if more of us could withhold judgement and, instead of allowing differences to divide us, we used them as opportunities to connect us?
Connections are the fabric of community as without connections, community could not be. In that vein, another quote that reverberates with me is this one from Desmond Tutu, “We are different so that we can know our need of one another, for no one is ultimately self-sufficient. A completely self-sufficient person would be sub-human.” These wise and meaningful words evoke in me the notion that we are all connected and interdependent, regardless of diversity, and that, in fact, diversity contributes to serving one another, learning, growing and living holistically.
What if the hostess of the exclusive birthday party understood the value of opening her heart and mind and connecting with a boy like Sawyer? She would not have missed some great opportunities to model humanistic behaviours for her son and impressionable young guests, to avail herself with the delightful company of a diverse human being and to make a difference in everyone’s lives, including her own. And most importantly, she wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to create community.
In community, a passionate group of diverse people with a common purpose can work together to achieve seemingly impossible attainments and contribute to a better life for humanity. I see this phenomenon acted out every day through the work my colleagues perform at Semiahmoo House Society. I appreciate what they do and, as I do not provide direct services like they do, I can only support their efforts through collaborative work, another form of connection.
For those that miss the point on fostering inclusiveness, it’s never too late. They can always develop compassion, an essential ingredient in connecting a diverse community. That’s because when people have compassion, they can dislodge deeply entrenched prejudices, view situations differently and experience various perspectives. The great thing about compassion is that, with self-awareness and exposure, it can be acquired over time.
Thank you, Facebook, for connecting us by giving voice to Sawyer’s mother, affording us with a great learning opportunity and inspiring the development of a compassionate community. At the end, the mother of the birthday boy had a change of heart and invited Sawyer. By doing so, she has demonstrated her ability to learn and grow.
Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. The Semiahmoo Foundation exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.
By Louise Tremblay, The Semiahmoo Foundation