Inclusion is about ALL of us | Day 9 of #12DaysforGood

by

Inclusion HOF

-By Cheryl Ewing

When asked to participate in the 12 Days for Good campaign, I was a bit reluctant as I believe that it is best to just do good and not talk about it but as I watch the news and see how disenfranchised so many people are, it seems to me that by celebrating our ability to work together as a community, we may start a wave that could change the world. All change starts with a single step, so this is it for me.

I found a definition of inclusion that seems to reflect my own experiences:

  • Inclusion is about ALL of us
  • Inclusion is about living full lives – about learning to live together.
  • Inclusion makes the world our classroom for a full life.
  • Inclusion treasures diversity and builds community.
  • Inclusion is about our ‘abilities’ – our gifts and how to share them.
  • Inclusion is NOT just a ‘disability’ issue.

I grew up in a small northern Ontario railroad town and still value the best of a small town feel, knowing and caring about the others in your community. Perhaps this helped develop one of my core philosophies – it is the responsibility of everyone to make their community reflective of what is important to them. You can’t expect others to do it. I learned that you will feel as though you belong to a community if you get out there and participate.

Being very shy, I learned that the arts are a wonderful and safe way to express yourself. Through theatre I was able to transform from a shy, introspective person into a person who could speak to large groups with the passion of my convictions. Because I found myself through the arts, I continue to make that my main focus, but I am also intensely interested in people and the world and through my connections with the Rotary Club of Kitchener I have project managed the Canadian contribution to a tri-country project in Nogales Mexico for over a decade. I have had far greater return from this project then I have put into it. I now have very dear friends in both the US and Mexico, people I would never have met if I had not been willing to give of my time. I now feel as though I have a home in Tucson Arizona, Nogales Mexico as well as Waterloo Region. I am part of a larger community that respects and values me for what I contribute. I feel included.

This has been possible because I was able to find people who were welcoming and willing to include me. Waterloo Region has demonstrated its ability to be inclusive over and over again. Years ago as a folk dancer with the KW Multicultural Dancers, I performed for new immigrants and worked with the annual festival. You could trace discord within the world by the origin of the latest wave of immigrants to our region. Our interest in stepping up as a community to include the latest refugees is a reflection of how wonderful this community is. However, the latest research from the KW Community Foundation’s Vital Signs report indicates that we may have become complacent. Some of our residents do not feel as though they belong. So, what are we doing to change that perception?

Today, as I walked in my neighbourhood, a stranger waved and said good morning. That really lifted my spirits and made me feel special. It struck me that it could be that simple. Acknowledging that we share this community and that each of us has a part to play in making it better. That we need each other and no matter what our economic or educational status, we are all richer for welcoming others. So, if you do nothing else today as you think about inclusion, take a moment to say hello to someone, particularly if they look frazzled or lonely. That simple gesture may change their perception of our community.

If you are feeling isolated, look for something to do in an area in which you are comfortable. It will be hard at first, but you will find that your shared passion will help start conversations which will lead to feeling like you are part of a small community.

 

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