Words Matter

I write a lot about the way we treat one another. It is central to being inclusive. But the way we speak to and about one another matters, too. Our choice of words when combined with our actions can enable us to build and sustain a culture of inclusion. Our actions will be meaningless if we undermine our own good efforts with negative or derogatory speech. Words matter.

Words matter, Removing the Stumbling Block

How Can You Tell if Your Community is Inclusive?

Have you ever had a teen look at you with that look of “duh” on his or her face? You know, the look that says, “Why are we even having this conversation? I know it all already!” The look that’s usually mixed with that subtle (or not so subtle) hint of adolescent arrogance that is intended to make you feel just a little inferior for even having opened the conversation.

I love teens. I mean I really love them. Nothing gives me greater joy than being surrounded by teens. They think they know everything but deep down know they have so much more to learn. They think they are invincible but are afraid to ever admit they feel vulnerable. I love them. And their angst.

And so when I got a room full of “duh” earlier this week, I couldn't have been happier.

You see, I was teaching a lesson on the Jewish values surrounding disability inclusion. I shared an interactive activity that engaged them in a way that is meant to mirror the frustrations some feel in learning situations, while allowing them to engage with our texts.

Jewish inclusion text activity, Removing the Stumbling Block

And here is what I learned: While fun (the kids told me they liked it) I observed this collective sense of “duh”. As in, “Why are we doing this, Lisa? We get inclusion.”

Yes, yes they do. Their attitudes and their body language showed me what I already knew and confirmed what I hoped was true. Inclusion is a value that is ingrained in who we are as an inclusive congregation and it’s just a seamless part of what we do. It's honestly never been a question for these kids. They have never wondered why, because it just is. So an intentional lesson to explore the Jewish value of inclusion was just a little bit lost on them. How cool is that?

So there you go. You know how to tell if you have a truly inclusive community? When everyone can look at you with a collective sense of “duh” and think, of course we are!
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