Years ago my daughter wanted to be a Girl Scout Brownie.
She saw the group of little girls in their brown and blue uniforms standing together after school on Fridays, giggling and waiting to go on to whatever adventure was next for them. It was hiking one day, cooking class the next week and a whole host of other little-girl-centered activities.
One day as we piled in the car she said, “I want to be a Brownie, Mama!” No doubt, she simply wanted to be in the “uniform” club, among the girls who get to wear something that gives them a special identity during the day at school.
I told her I would see what I could do and over the next few days, I set out to find one of the Brownie leaders.
“No. I’m so sorry. But we’ve decided that this is a closed group,” she told me.
I guess I was a Girl Scout newbie at this point and I didn’t understand that someone could “close” a group. Why wouldn’t they want more girls? I offered to help, to be a leader, to let the girls meet at our house even.
“No. Again, I’m sorry. We just don’t have any more room.”
I’m sure there are more heartbreaking conversations one can have with a child, but this one hurt for sure. “Baby,” I started. “The group is simply not letting anyone else in.” Even I didn’t understand the concept I was trying to explain.
It brought up all the times that I’d been left out in school. The times they saved the seat for someone else and the times they talked about the slumber party over the weekend I hadn’t known about. Or the time they all said let’s play hide-and-go-seek but they really played ditch-em. And I was alone. I hated that my girl was being left out.
We humans love to say to each other,
You can’t play.
There isn’t enough room for you.
Oh, I’m sorry, this seat’s taken.
This is an exclusive group.
It’s not like we want to be mean, really.
We say these kinds of things because it makes us feel, I believe, more IN ourselves. Included. Incorporated. Inside. Just IN.
And so what we do is exclude.
We are afraid of losing our own inside status and we are afraid of being left out ourselves, so we push others out of the way. We are afraid that we will be the one they play ditch-em on.
And to be honest, it just feels good to be on the inside.
What if we decided to push against this paradigm, to open our hearts, and our minds, to others who might not be inside? And what if we recognized the fear in those people who do the excluding, that they are simply worried that they won’t be a part of the group themselves? What if we stopped worrying about whether we were IN or OUT?
What if we decided to be includers rather than excluders?
There are people around every one of us who are dying to be seen, to be loved, to be included in a simple conversation. There are people who just need someone to remember them, to say “hello” or to really care about the answer to “how are you?”
Did you know that we can be world changers simply by opening up our hearts?
I don’t think those Brownie moms were trying to be mean. They didn’t intend to create an exclusive club, I’m sure.
The next year, a few of the other mothers began our own Girl Scout troop. And we decided from the very beginning that it would be open to whoever wanted to be a part. We started by inviting all the girls in the class and continued on with the idea that this would be for everyone.
I think this is at the heart of God, that we open the doors up for everyone who would be a part, that we become inclusive rather than exclusive.
Have you ever been excluded? How do you try to include others?
Do you believe we can change the world by opening up our hearts?
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
Yes, I’ve been left on the outside…even more heartbreaking is that I’ve seen my children be left standing on the outside (middle and high school are particularly difficult years). It’s no fun being excluded, but yes I think we can change the world even if we reach out and include one more person. Jesus told of the shepherd who went searching for the one lost sheep…one more soul included DOES make a difference. Thanks for a wonderful, thought provoking post!
You can’t be “in” unless there’s somebody left “out”, right? We humans are excellent at stepping on each other in our attempt to climb to the top. It’s extra painful when Christians do it to each other, or worse, to non-believers. We’re probably confirming things they already thought about us. I love this reminder that we need to be INcluders and not EXcluders! (And yay for you starting your own Girl Scout troop!)
Kerith Stull says
The life of the mother of special needs kiddo is a life on the fray. I’ve seen my 17yo daughter with moderate CP turned away and excluded from countless schoolyard games, birthday parties, and after school events. By association, I am also left out, unable to be part of their group because I cannot earn my “normal parent” membership card. The only saving grace is my daughter’s positive spirit which knows no boundaries for love and acceptance of others. She’s taught me to be more open, to try hard to be included, and to not see it as no big deal when we aren’t. It has also helped me go out of my way to help others in sidelines find a place among the included.
Beth Williams says
Prayers for you and your daughter. Special needs children tend to show us how to love everyone regardless of anything.
Prayers that God will bring people in your lives that will be open to you and receptive of your daughter.
Please help Kerith and her daughter find acceptance with other people. Shower them with love & mercy. Help others to be kind & loving towards them.
Katie Shannon says
This brought tears to my eyes, remembering all the times I’ve felt that and last year seeing it happen to my kindergarten children. It’s so tough. Yet, such a wonderful opportunity to be more of Jesus that each other needs.
Mark Allman says
I think it is important for us to make it a priority to look for those that are excluded either by others or because they don’t feel worthy. I think it means a lot to reach out to those and learn their story. I think some people probably feel invisible and we should be ones who see them.
Yes, I have been excluded and yes it’s hurtful. But here’s a question. What if your daughter has a mean girl in her life? This girl is nice some of the times but has said very hurtful mean, and rude things. She is sneaky. She is competitive. Do you include her? She want’s to manipulate friendships and get in between established ones. Is it because of her own insecurity…probably, but do I sacrifice my daughters and her friends hearts to “include” this particular girl? I have been told many thoughts and would love some more. The ages of these girls are 9-10yr.
Pam M says
My children are now past this phase, but I would say that one thing I have regretted in terms of being a mother in social situations is judging or excluding the “mean girls” or “mean boys” too harshly. I totally understand the hesitancy to include them, because they can really mess things up. On the other hand, kids really do change over the years, and looking back I had the opportunity to be a more loving grown-up in their lives and I chose not to be in an effort to protect to my kids. Perhaps you can find ways to be inclusive in certain situations where they might not cause too much trouble?
Mary Baker says
Thank you for this post. I think you were meant to post it for me to read today. I worship at a church that has been attended by the same families for over a hundred years, who live within two miles of each other; and while I have been a member for almost forty years, have raised my children there, served in many capacities, there are times when I still feel excluded–and I’m hard headed and insist that my church is God’s house, not their house. But, when we have fellowship meals, etc. the families always sit together; and we “new blood” sit together. Then we wonder why visitors don’t stay very long!! Last week we had another fellowship meal at a restaurant with one long table to sit at, and the seating was the same— little, and big, clusters of families together–and I was down on the very end–feeling excluded!! Our Fellowship meals aren’t Girl Scout gatherings or Garden Club gatherings, which should still be inclusive gatherings–I will never condone exclusive gatherings; our Fellowship meals are gatherings of the Body of Christ!! I will never condone members of the Church congregating in exclusive groups when we are supposed to be having fellowship with our church family. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest!! Have a happy and blessed day!!
It’s natural to want to fit into a group and be included… in school, in scouts, in church, etc. I think that’s one of the most amazing things about God’s plan – we will always “fit in” when we get to heaven.
PS – As a lifetime Girl Scout and current staff member, I totally understand both perspectives. Enjoy these years with your daughter… I had a great 12 years with my mom as my troop leader 🙂
Have I ever been left out? Ha! I have been the poster child for being left out! Not something I’m proud of by any means, something I’ve been fighting my entire LIFE. Starting in Sunday School with that darn clique of “popular” girls all the way through junior high and high school (although high school wasn’t actually that bad – I had my own little diverse rag-tag group of friends and we were fiercely loyal to each other) up through the church internship I did at age 19 (which was the WORST – sad how Christians are so good at excluding each other).
The cliques never really end. We never really outgrow it. It’s part of life. It still hurts deeply when I feel like I’m being excluded. But with God’s help I can rise above it. It’s not always easy but it’s better than sitting around feeling sorry for myself. 🙂
Ive been on the outs and in(sometimes) but im wondering when you are trying to keep someone out bc they are trying to harm you? Is God calling us to sacrifice in this area as well?
. I was on the outs with certain girls i now understand that i had some really messed up ways. Im glad God doesnt mind our mess ups but truthful some folks will never recieve us. And im less worried about that today then yesterday.
You have got to be kidding. I realize that there is competition for some things in life like academic and athletic scholarships, promotions at work, etc…but a Brownie group? Seriously? This post made me get a huge lump in my throat. While there have been times when I wasn’t included…NOTHING compares to when it’s your CHILD not being included. And this happens ALL the time. My oldest child was born with Down Syndrome, and he spent much of his life not being included and not FEELING included. And in case anyone thinks that “they” don’t know…”they” do. But you don’t have to have special needs to be excluded…this also happened to my daughter during high school. Kids like to form groups based on physical differences or abilities…and it goes on into high school with emphasis on looks, money, cars, clothes, etc. They can also be excluded because of their values. This is such a wake-up call for all of us…because, if we’re honest, we can make our Sunday School class, “small group,” or Bible Study group a “closed” group. Oh, we don’t really SAY that out-loud, but we make it clear that we all have a bond, we are all really close, our kids all get along…no one else can come in. And we stay in our comfortable groups…and people fall by the way-side. As parents, teachers, leaders, etc we need to be watching for this and have no tolerance for it…in adults OR in kids. The good thing is that most kids mature and out-grow this behavior…but the scars that remain on the ones it affected can last forever.
The EXACT same thing happened to me as a little girl. I was brokenhearted. However later, about age 13, I was invited to join the Rainbow Girls. I didn’t want to join because of my previous experience, however, my mother made me join. Needless to say…it was the VERY best decision I made in my young life to that point. It is a girls section of the Masonic lodge and taught me Patroitsiom, love of nature, love and respect for family-friends and help for the needy, along with many other things. I stayed in until I was grown and loved EVERY moment of it. As an adult I encouraged my two daughters to join and later my two gr daughters also, which they all did. It was a WONDERFUL experience-one I wouldn’t trade as a child, mother or grandmother. You don’t have to be affiliated with the Masonic lodge to join-I wasn’t.
Sarah Schulz says
I believe we are called to be includers–I have tried (being well taught by loving parents and having 6 siblings!) to be one myself for many years. And I am still trying, but I have realized a couple of things along the way:
Making choices does not necessarily mean we are being wrongly exclusive–even if other people feel that we are excluding them. I am learning to say “no” to requests, to enlarging, when what I am called to in that moment is different. I can now say, “I would love to come, but I need to work on my novel. Maybe next time.” Or, “I want this study group to be limited to six people, so we have enough time for each person to share.” Or even, “I need a friend who I can be vulnerable with, who won’t mind if I need to talk, unload, open up, for a change. I can’t visit with the other friends today–I am in need.”
We can and should be includers. Holy Spirit helping me, I will always be able to do that.
But I hope more and more to be able to do it consciously, without being manipulated, by giving grace and space to myself first so that the love I can give is deeper and not begrudged.
Wonderfully thought-provoking and challenging. Thank you!
Jen P says
I was just praying about this subject this morning. I was hurt by an event that I was not included in. I understood the reasoning (budget constraints, facility size, etc.), but it was the fact that I didn’t make “the list,” that yet again I felt I didn’t quite measure up, I felt invisible. For me, it’s not that I feel purposely excluded, but as an introvert at heart, I felt unnoticed and unnecessary. Your post spoke to me in just the right way – as Jesus keeps trying to teach me, it’s not about me – it’s about what can I do for others – I can include them, I can reach out to others even if I’m not being reached out to.
I also realize both sides of the story as far as Brownie’s go – my daughter was a part of one of those “closed” groups – we had to wait for a spot to open up for her to be included in. It wasn’t the intention of the leaders to exclude particular girls, it was an effort on their part to make the group small enough to build close, lasting, friendships. As a very shy girl, it would have been difficult for my daughter to assimilate in a group with many girls. It has been one of the best experiences she has had – she is in high school now and continues to be in the same troop with these girls.
I also realize the frustration of not having your children included too. I have a son that battles mental illness and with that his behavior can be erratic at times. I can understand how for those who don’t know him or us well, he would be excluded. The times that have been most difficult for me have been when we were are excluded by family members, those that I would have that unconditional acceptance of us.
Thank you for this – it definitely helped to put things in perspective for me.
I wanted to respond to T and the mean girl in her daughters life. First off my older daughter is not easily influenced by others, if she were I would probably encourage her as much as possible to just stay away from this girl.
My daughter (who is almost ten) has a few of these girls in her life and we talk openly about them. What motivates them and what may be at the root of their behavior. A great book to share with your daughter is FaithGirlz’s book “Girl Politics”, I highly recommend it.
Some of these mean girls will behave with supervision. These girls are invited to participate in activities in which I will be actively involved. When something inappropriate is said by the girl I will often (nicely) question her about her statement or offer her a rule that we follow. I also tend to invite these kids to church with us 🙂
Brandi Luiz says
Oh my gracious!! I love this! Why do we need to exclude others? Why can’t we just offer them a genuine heart and a genuine concern when we ask them how they are doing. Very nicely written. Thank you for doing it.
In going thru my inbox, I saw the title of this mail “Included” … something that had been happening to me all week was exposed by that one simple word. I really appreciate this message and it is especially important anytime, but also – as a Mom to a child entering HS – to remember to include and smile and say “hi” – even to strangers because even tho I am new, so are others and so is my child and maybe I will make just ONE PERSON feel included by reaching out with my heart when I’m in this new environment.
Beth Williams says
Most of my life has been lived on the outside. Partly due to my being shy and not outgoing. These last few years I have tried my best to become an include–even if I don’t know you.
I will walk up to just about anyone at my little church–especially new people and say “Glad you came”. I try to make it a weekly ritual to talk to a lot of the older people at the church and give them a big hug and hello. I want them and the world to see Christ in and through me!
Victoria @ Creative Home Keeper says
Thank you sharing this. I have felt this way so many times in my life and the sting of feeling excluded never gets any easier. Now that I have kids, including a daughter, my heart breaks for them knowing that one day they too will probably be excluded from something. The only thing I can do is to continually teach them about the love of Jesus and how He will never exclude them, which is also something that I need to remind myself of on a daily basis too!
Debbie Scaefer says
I never forgot what a Jr Hi teacher wrote in my yearbook;
“They drew a circle that drew me out
Heretic rebel a thing to flout
But Love and I had the wits to win
We drew a circle that drew them in. “
Linda Bartlett says
From childhood with a different from the norm brother thus I was ignored and picked on.
As an adult my first child had cerebral palsy thus suffered isolation from others with normal children.
What has happened for me that God has told me I will stand in the GAP. I have a heart for those who are forgotten and not seen. I am very grateful for this ministry and now feel ok in groups to just be myself. I an Abba fathers chosen child. That is my identity. So go ladies claim your own blessedness and being apart from but part of is a very important so we can show loving kindness to the lost and lonely.
Bless you all I live in New Zealand and love receiving the posts.
I loved this article. Thank you for sharing. I do want to share another perspective though. I am and have been a Girl Scout leader with my daughter since she was in kindergarten. She’s in 8th grade now. My first year as a leader, we had 8 girls in our troop. Troop leaders are just volunteers usually a parent(s) stepping up to the plate to lead so the troop can form. Initially, one of the other parents said she would co-lead with me with all of the parents saying oh yes they would help out, etc. Amazingly, it was several fathers there at the time. Well, no one stepped up and you have to have 2 leaders, one lead and and one co-leader minimally. Then, there are ratios to adhere to. Then, they had a mom of a home schooler say she wanted to lead. Well, she took the lead and our troop of 8 started. The leader had also been a leader in cub and/or boy scouts which is more rigid if you will on uniform to each meeting, etc. Girl Scouts aren’t as strict about that. She wanted to apply some of those same standards to our troop which for most was okay but for a couple who had older girls in Girl Scouts & knew that wasn’t the case, they butted heads. She ended up dropping out as a leader at the end of the 1st school year.
The next year, another Mom, J, stepped up to co-lead with me. It was a great experience. We added 3 or 4 girls to our troop. We had a couple who had left at that time. For the moms of the new girls, I was very upfront and shared that the girls in our troop were very loud and very dramatic. I wasn’t saying that to be mean of anything. But, some kids have sensory issues and that loudness would have been way to much so I wanted them to know what kind of group our girls were. Those parents said that was fine and they fit right in.
The 3rd year, another Mom, C, stepped up to co-lead with us. So, we had 3 leaders. It was a great dynamic. I tend to be the rule follower and stricter. C was on the more extreme of laissez faire (sp?). J was a great balance between us.
Over the years, girls came and went. We kept 6 of the original girls through 6th grade. We had even gotten up to 12, 13 & 14 girls in our troop as juniors. But, it dropped down when they went to middle school. 6th grade was a very challenging year for all of us. It was like someone flipped a switch and 2-3 of the girls were mean and mean to each other. It was not pretty. Fortunately, 2 of the hardest ones are dropping out. I share all that to say, that sometimes we “exclude” to protect others from the drama. Right or wrong. One of those girls was the daughter of C. It took a toll on our friendship and they are not returning. The previous year, J, and her daughter left because she was getting busy with cheerleading and had to miss so much and lost interest. When we had 8 girls, that was a good manageable group. When we had 14, it was okay but you lose some of the closeness that you had with just 8. For some adults and/or some girls (boys for that matter too), they can handle more. Some can’t. It’s good when people know their limits and can set those. I hope that perspective is helpful. People don’t always know they are excluding. People don’t always mean to exclude. Sometimes excluding is protecting. We just have to trust God no matter what. I know it hurts. I’ve excluded from things most of my life but now having these experiences, I can look at it differently.
I had been a brownie, but when we moved to a new state in 4th grade, the Girl Scout troop told my mom they were a closed group but would make an exception for me since I’d already been in a troop elsewhere. My mom was upset at the idea that other girls wouldn’t be allowed to join too and I guess felt that she didn’t want me to be in a group that wasn’t going to be welcoming and open. So she started a new troop with another mom at the new school. It was open to everyone and such a fun experience. I’m glad my mom taught me at an early age that if people don’t want to be inclusive, I don’t have to be part of it. She instilled values of welcoming and loving others by that one act and the way she lived her life. And it helped as I got older and saw the cliques I wasn’t a part of to know that they were the ones missing out. I will be grateful to my mom for so many things. This is one of them. Thanks for writing about this. It’s so important as Christians that we strive to be known for our love. Excluding others doesn’t fit that.
giuliana sani says
i appreciated this post very very much,and i hope that in some ways everyChrist belonging person would take the courage to stand and live a true,very real and honest Christian life.I work in a primary school in Italy,and let me say that i can see these problems every day,however i find out that it’s so important for everyone to feel accepted within every type of groups
This article was touching. I have been working and living overseas as an English teacher for 10 years now. I have just recently returned to an area where I lived and worked 10 years ago. So, when I first moved to this area I was the “newbie.” I had such high expectations of what i would find in the other C’s.
So, when some of the “excluding” experiences here by other C.’s came my way I was shocked and hurt. I am unfortunately a divorcee and was a single parent for 10 years. I had already experienced rejection by the body of CH., and had grown stronger from my single parenting time.
One group here actually not only excluded me from their get-together times but also from Sunday worship and fellowship times because I was not “pre-approved” by their denominational group. From there it got worse. Though these people did not make any effort to get to know me they then “shunned” me and said amazingly ignorant things such as, “We don’t even know if she’s been properly baptized!” Well, why didn’t they just ask?
Upon return to this area, I realize that I am still here, they have all left long ago. I am not here because I was part of a pre-approved group but because I feel strongly led by the L–d of Love to be here. To act in love toward those here who have maybe never know this kind of “higher” love. Love is not just a feel -good feeling it’s some thing that we strive to live out in our everyday lives with those around us.
To continue, this “rude” introduction to my new area, forced me to make new friends with the local community folks and I have had some of the most incredibly wonderful and exciting times of my life. Some of the locals I met during that period of time became long time friends and we still enjoy our friendship to this day. I have been invited to their homes and met their families and even been included in their most special life events; such as weddings, children’s Birthdays and even sat at the bedside of one friend’s dying Grandmother. I am considered one of the family. They included a complete stranger into their close family circle. Sometimes we experience Hea. Father’s hand at work in our lives and hearts in the most unusual ways and places.
I remember something which He spoke to my heart long ago…
“Become the thing you want to see.”
Stop worrying about who isn’t living it and try to live it yourself. This is not always easy, so it helps in developing compassion for those who may not be behaving lovely or loving. It also puts the focus back where it belongs, on my personal relationship with my Hea. Father. And in this way I seek His face and attempt to become that loving, inclusive person which we saw exemplified in JC’s life.
Maxine Gonzalez says
I think all of us have experienced not being included…..or how about the one who isn’t invited? All of these sad memories melted away one day when I truly realized that I am included and invited to sit at CHRIST’S table…..
When we realize this then yes, we should be the one to include rather than exclude! Thanks for this great post!