Friday, February 26, 2010

the return of the sun

These past few weeks I've felt a sort of nervous anticipation when I wake up with the sun shining through my half-closed shade...I know we're still in the midst a Minnesota winter, but today I can't help but feel like the sun is finally edging its way back to life. From the perspective I have right now, watching the ice slush beneath me on my bicycle and the light resting on the snow banks outside the Arise front window, it feels like all the ups and downs of this winter might be starting to slow. Then again, it could just be all the good feelings that have been welling up in me these past two days. Since Thursday I have felt so well-fed and warmed by people and conversations, and its days like these that make me remember why I struggle.

I have been thinking a lot about what I stand for, what I really believe. My site review on Wednesday left me feeling so useless - had I really spent 6 months thinking I was this fair, kind person, only to find that I was just as callous and thoughtless and I had feared? My feelings about it have calmed a little, which is good. I think I have a tendency to automatically blame myself for conflicts that arise, without realizing that I am not the only person involved and can't totally be at fault.

I've been thinking a lot this week about what true inclusion means. What does it mean to live in a truly inclusive society? To me, inclusion means welcoming and respecting the lives and experiences of everyone I come into contact with, including:

- people of all ages - kids, older folks, middle aged folks (i.e. not just young single ppl with no kids)
- people of all genders - men, women, transfolk, non-gendered folk
- parents and guardians and all those raising or living with children
- anyone with physical or cognitive abilities that are different from my own
- people from every socio-economic background - from those with no resources to those with the most
- people of all races, all cultures, all experiences and backgrounds

It can be a really positive, reaffirming experience to finally find a community of people who share the same habits, thought patterns, living situation, financial background, or physical appearance as you, especially if you have felt alienated by larger groups of people for any of those characteristics. But more and more I realize its not enough to build a comfortable nest for yourself. At a certain point you have to look beyond the nest, you have to reach out and find inspiration and common ground with those you feel like you have nothing in common with. It's so important to have a community of people you feel attached to, but building communities takes work. It means recognizing and celebrating differences, not just similarities. It means struggling, discovering, questioning. Its not enough to assume that because someone dresses in a certain way or shows up at events you attend, you know and understand their values and their mind.

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