by: Michelle Murray
inclusion[in-kloo-zhuh n] noun
1. the act of including.
2. the state of being included.
3. something that is included.
When I was a child, I was bullied. For some reason the other kids decided there was something wrong with me. They’d turn their backs, walk away, and yell at me. Worst of all, they isolated me from my surroundings.
When I was a child, inclusion was never taught; most of the children I went to school with taunted and teased anyone who seemed slightly different; which always led me to think – what is difference, and who decides who’s different?
My mother always taught me from a very young age, that no matter your belief, the colour of your skin, or your level of ability – everyone was to be treated equally, which was why I had such a hard time with how the others treated me. I was no different; didn’t their parents teach them the same things my mother did? Didn’t these kids realize we are all the same?
a most educational summer
When I was sixteen I worked at an Easter Seal Camp in London, ON. I loved the connectivity of the campers. The smiles, the hugs (there were SO many hugs), and the staff I worked with. Here I learned about inclusion; it was the greatest lesson I had learn in my humbled 16 years.
I learned that everyone is capable at different levels; I watched a counsellor teach a camper who never communicated before how to say the word balloon, I watched a kid with spina bifida dance to the sounds of Rob Base and Dj EZ Rock – he never left his wheelchair, but man – could he teach you a move or two.
I learned that everyone, no matter where they came from and what mountains they had to climb, were all in it together.
It was quite possibly, the best summer of my life.
fast forward a year or two
A few years have gone by since that fantastic summer at camp and what I learned from those experiences have been applied into how I carry myself each day.
Everyone has the right to belong, to feel a part of something. It doesn’t need to be huge; it just needs to be something. It feels terrible when people alienate us, tell us we aren’t welcome, or don’t provide a place for us to play.
While our paths may be different, and our situations dissimilar, it doesn’t define who we are, and it should never allow others to define us as well.
A couple of weeks ago, Between Friends had its Awards & AGM. Donors, members, families, and participants all joined us at Newalta to celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of those from our Between Friends family.
Out of the positive energy and excitement, I noticed something – it was a hug. A simple ‘glad to see you hug,’ from a group of participants, and to try and translate how it felt on paper would be difficult, not only because of the purity of where it [the hug] came from, but because of the emotion it brought out in me.
This hug, the room, everything, was all so inclusive – it affected me in a way, I hadn’t felt in a long time.
THIS is how it should be. THIS is how people should connect and communicate. THIS is Between Friends.
“Inclusion is not just a matter of putting in wheelchair ramps and accommodating disabled kids in public schools. Real inclusion must occur in all aspects of daily life.” Shannon Flora
At Between Friends, this is how we conduct ourselves every day – whether it’s in the office, at camp, programs, or away on a wild fun filled adventure. We are all inclusive; everyone has a voice, and everyone belongs. While there still may be challenges along the way, we can all climb that mountain together – and it doesn’t matter when we reach the top, because as friends, anything is possible.