In my conversations around “This is Ella” I am continually struck by how the story of Ella is so much more than a story about Down syndrome. It is a story about what it means to be community, a story about friendship and a story about inclusion. This past weekend I attended the Inclusion Alberta Family Conference here in Edmonton and at one point, the speaker asked, “what is Inclusion.” This was the second time I had heard this question posed to a group of people in a week and to my surprise, most people had a hard time articulating it. It’s a concept that we fight for and know in our hearts but find difficult to explain. As Shelley Moore says, Inclusion is not something we do, it’s something we live. But seriously, how do we define inclusion?
Just out of curiosity, I looked up the definition of Inclusion on the Merriam Webster site and I was disappointed to find this,
- the act of including: the state of being included
- the act or practice of including students with disabilities in regular school classes
Inclusion, to me, is so much more than this. Jean Vanier, a Catholic Theologian and the founder of L’Arche communities explains in his book, Becoming Human, that everyone comes to a community with a gift and a need. In recognizing both of these attributes, inclusion happens. Inclusion happens in a group or a community in which every person belongs and where his or her contributions are recognized and valued. We can practice this in every area of our lives. Tuff Sprout brings to light the gifts of children and families whose gifts and contributions are perhaps harder to see and yet, when they tell their stories, the value of their contributions are so clear. This past week, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Christina for their very first Tuff Sprout Podcast. I was so incredibly grateful to share our message with their listeners. You can have a listen on their website by clicking here.