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?