“How was it? “
“Great! Can I go again?”
That’s the conversation my son and I had the first time our former pastor took him hiking. All he wanted was to go back. He loves to explore. He loves to be active. He loves to be in nature.
And as much as I love spending time with him, I have physical challenges that limit my ability to do those things with him.
We find other ways to have fun and bound, but hiking is very important to him and I didn’t realize it until our pastor offered to take him on one. As his mom, I could think of two million things that might go wrong (okay, maybe not that many, but you get the point). I was concerned that he might get overwhelmed and cry. What if he decides to explore too far from the group and get lost? We’ve had our share of those scary moments. As my list of worries grew longer and longer, the small hope I had inside won and I let him go. I’m so glad I did!
He went on the trip with other men and boys from our church. He was not the child with autism who needed extra eyes on him, although we all knew that additional supervision might be needed. No one made a big deal about it, and that made a huge difference. He was just one of the guys, part of the group and that sense of belonging is what we all want. All people want to belong.
After a few hiking trips, my worries decreased. We all grew from these experiences. He felt accepted, valued, and embraced – that’s what inclusion is all about! I felt supported and included as well and our church friends as well. Inclusion is truly a win-win!
As a caregiver, don’t let your fears of what ifs stop you from pursuing inclusion. You would be surprised when you try. Some things might not work right away or not at all, but many others will and you won’t know for sure until you try.
For everyone, inclusion is human life at it’s best. Life at its core is diversity. Just look around you! From plants to animals to stars and clouds … Everywhere you look, you see inclusion in nature. It’s time we step up our game, humans! Don’t be afraid to invite someone who is different from you to do something with you, not just present but actually participate at their own level, at their own pace, like all of us should. Inclusion is beautiful and it starts with us.
Always, remember: Inclusion begins with I.
Chou H. G.