When I was nine, my body was taller, my legs were fatter, my hair was frizzier, and my chest more developed, than the petite, lean, shiny-haired pack of girls I watched in the school yard. I stood on the outside looking in. I sat on a different bench at lunchtime. I remember the sting of being different, of rejection and isolation.
My daughter, Lily, now the same age, yearns for a best friend. But she is more animated and emotional than the girls in her fifth grade class, who have paired into hand-holding-do-everything-together units and wield the power over who belongs. She wonders why Tessa, Naomi and Amy don't include her in the fourth square of their yard game or why Nina and Lucy never invite her to their birthday parties.
Standing on the outskirts, wishing to join the fun, fills a little girl—or a grown adult remembering—with hurt.
Whether you are a parent, teacher, or neighbor, use your influence to break apart cliques. Send the message loudly, clearly, and often that exclusion is painful and is a display of the worst kind of bad manners. Those who are left out feel angry and lonely; be unwilling to EVER contribute to this kind of silent pain.
* Remove the word “outcast” from your vocabulary.
* Choose friends and role models who say and show that it is never OK to disparage.
* Model techniques for making friends and starting interesting conversations. Identify even one similarity you share with another to find common ground.
* Encourage inclusive situations in which everyone contributes.
* Embrace oneness. We are all “one.” What affects you, affects me, too. Envision the chain of friendship growing longer and stronger.
Whatever your age or familial situation, be inclusive, not exclusive. Reach out. Be civil and cordial, even to those whom you aren’t interested in spending time with. Everyone has a story. Everyone has more in common with you than you realize. When you let in their energy and get to know their hearts, you will find a connection.
We are all links in the great chain of humanity. When we lose a link, the chain falls apart. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Causes Andrea Gosline Supports
Friends of the Urban Forest, Greenpeace, Roots and Shoots