A few years ago my daughter, who was ten at the time, wrote for me. The direction she immediately went was to the way kids treat one another. I shouldn’t be surprised. I reflect often on the power of relationships (in Jewish education, inclusive education, teen education). I’ve written lessons and articles about building trusting relationships and I speak often about the power of relationships to help us build more inclusive communities.
So I wasn’t surprised that my daughter thought about the way kids treat one another as she wrote, “Just because someone’s different does not mean they don’t have the same interests as you. You could make some friends even if they learn differently or act differently. Go ahead, be nice. I dare you!”
I received the following comment: “When I was little, that is how I assumed life was like... although I'd never heard the word "inclusion" at that point. From watching Sesame Street and other children's shows and books, I assumed that all children who used wheelchairs, or sign language, or had other disabilities, were just out there playing with all of the rest of the kids and it was no big deal. I didn't actually encounter many children with disabilities at my own school, but I just assumed that was because there weren't any in our neighborhood. It wasn't until later in life that I noticed inclusion being such a big thing, like people are doing such a major kindness by treating a person with a disability the way they would treat anyone else.”
What a terrific perspective. I wish we could find a way to ensure that everyone approached the world with such a mindset - that inclusion is just how "life is". Amen. But what really gets me here is the kindness part. “…like people are doing such a major kindness by treating a person with a disability the way they would treat anyone else.”
Inclusion is not a favor we do for someone.
We need to treat people, ALL people, with kindness because we can, and because we should; period.
Being kind is about leading by example. You have the ability to be the person you hope your children will become. You can be the person you hope YOU will become. Teach that a wheelchair is just a ride. Discuss the significance of choosing your words carefully and standing up for equality and the rights of others.
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