“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.” — Max de Pree
Today, my only daughter enters her teen years. Thirteen years old and she already has the important things nailed down: stands up for those who can’t stand for themselves, sees the best parts of those around her and finds ways to be inclusive, but also refuses to take crap from anyone. I am very, very proud of who she chooses to be.
I think the following story is a good illustration of her character.
Her birthday party was Saturday and she wanted to invite many people. She was only allowed a certain number of guests, though. Every time someone dropped out, she would have another name to add to the list. I noticed she had left out a couple of her good pals and there were names of people I didn’t know. When asked she said, “I can hang out with my friends anytime and they know we’re good, but this girl…I don’t know if anyone ever invites her to things…and she’s really nice.”
The party happened and it was a motley crew comprised of silly girls, loud girls, serious girls, and quiet girls. Everyone enjoyed themselves because everyone was genuinely appreciated for who they were and allowed to engage at the level they were most comfortable. No one was singled out, called out, or teased….but there was lots of laughing and fun.
After the party had ended, three girls straggled behind; waiting on rides and not really wanting to leave. As the first of the three opened the front door, she turned back and very quietly said, “Thanks for inviting me. I haven’t been to a birthday party in three years.”
Then she smiled and left. I shut the door and the second girl said, “I haven’t ever been to a birthday party. I get along with people okay, but for some reason no one ever invites me anywhere…”
And then the third girl said, “I get it. I’ve only been to a couple parties in my life.”
Later, I learned that one of the girls that came has a mother with breast cancer and, as the oldest child, she spends much of her time being a little adult. Another has a really abusive home life. Another has parents divorcing. All of them were sweet and lovely and easy to host. And my heart broke, but also burst because as sad as their stories are my little girl heard them, and saw them, and genuinely wanted them. That was her gift to them; the gift of inclusion and dignity.