Morning Zephyrs! Julie here. Here’s a heart-warming video for your morning in case you’re missing school sports days…
That video clip has been around since at least 2016 and I still remember the first time I saw it because it made me smile. It’s a classic School Sports Day scenario with a lovely little twist of kindness. The boys in one class agreeing together that their classmate with Downs’ Syndrome should win the race while they run behind him, cheering him on! What a lovely moment!
I remember when I was around 9, going on a school trip to the Colne Valley Museum in Golcar. We dressed up as Victorians for the day, the girls in mob caps and shawls and the boys in waistcoats and flat caps, and we worked in groups to make firelighters and corn dollies and cook lunch. It was all done in character – we were the new workers for the Victorian owners and had to do what we were told.
The build-up to it was monumental. The trip was in year 4, which was the last year of first school (we had middle schools back then) and we’d been looking forward to it for years. As it drew closer, our parents had to source our costumes, the teachers put us into groups, then started sowing the seeds of the story we would role-play for the day. The anticipation well-and-truly built, we were excited! Then disaster struck…
Robin, a boy in our class, broke his leg. He missed a couple of days of school while the bone was set and the cast put on – and we all started talking… How would he manage the bus? How could he be a servant with a broken leg? What if the story got ruined? WHAT IF HE HAD TO MISS THE TRIP???
Luckily, our teachers were problem solvers of epic proportions (as most teachers are) and they had this in hand. Robin returned to school, in plaster and on crutches, and the teachers did some behind-the-scenes collaboration with the museum. The story was adapted and the trip went ahead – with Robin, the new chimney sweep, who’d fallen down a chimney and broken his leg. Genius!
Inclusion, done well, is a beautiful thing. Like the boys in the video, or my year 4 teachers, inclusion done well communicates “We see you. We value you. You belong to us and we belong to you. And because of that, we will adapt to enable you to fully belong. No question.” And to those of us watching, it says – “Look what you are part of – there will always be a place for you here, we value and include you too.”
Jesus was good at inclusion. He saw those who were excluded from society and he valued them, he stood with them, he let them know that he belonged to them. Fishermen, tax collectors, lepers, women and children, widows, the ill, the ostracized, the forgotten, the marginalised. He reached out and gathered them all in. Or rather, he didn’t. Rather than gather them in to the place that had already failed to embrace them, he went to where they were and gathered himself in with them. Inclusion, done well, changes lives.
As lockdown rules begin to ease and new regulations come into play, I’ve seen lots of little conversations all over my newsfeed about what will and won’t be allowed and how we can remember those who won’t be able to easily access the new normal. Conversations about how church has been done and new options opening up – those who have enjoyed accessing Zoom calls and those who have hated it, those without technology – and different ways of reaching out to them, those who will still be shielding. And I have seen lots of gentle consideration of different needs, different preferences, and gentle pointing out of those who may be at risk of being forgotten. And those conversations have cheered me because when we communicate gently and from a place of love, with respect and humility and an understanding of good intention, we can keep on learning to be more inclusive and do things better.
There are so many opportunities now to do things differently, to do things better, to do things more inclusively. To think through and ask tricky questions about what we want to pick up again and what we need to change.
How can we follow Jesus’ example and be instinctively inclusive by drawing ourselves to those the world forgets rather than trying to tempt them to come to us?
The real challenge lies in reconciling inclusivity with rules and regulations – to reach out to others like Jesus did, to include them as he did, means having flexibility, being relational before regulating – and that doesn’t mean throwing the rules out, but it does mean scrutinizing them to creatively adapt and apply them in a way that communicates love first.
What an opportunity to talk together, to communicate, to discuss, to hear and to learn from perspectives that are different from our own, as we are gifted a chance to remake things new – we make the path by walking and the path will lead us home…
Here’s to collaboration; to cooperation; to compromise; to inclusivity; to finding new ways of being that echo the old ways – may God open your eyes to new perspectives today, Zephyrs! Enjoy the sunshine – and may you find ways to stay cool!