He looked so sad.
“What’s the matter Jude?”
“Charlie doesn’t want to play with me,” he answered hanging his head low.
All of us at one time or another have felt excluded. Sometimes the smallest things impact us the most. Remember gym day at school? Our stomachs tied in little knots as captains chose members for their teams. Many hoped to be chosen quickly. A few prayed they would not be last.
Remember approaching a group of kids at play and asking if you could join them? Kids aren’t shy about excluding. Some adults follow suit, they just do it with more subtlety.
You’ll hear words of excitement, “Yes, let’s get together.”
And you think they mean it and so you follow up. But though you leave messages, your phone calls are never answered. Eventually you realize it was a paper thin invitation, with no substance. Perhaps some of you have felt the sting of being openly excluded; a party you weren’t invited to, or maybe you were unfriended on Facebook.
Exclusion is hard, at any level. A friend of mine shared how she felt working temporarily at a company. Though she was equally qualified, she was not warmly welcomed at lunch, nor did she get to share in idle talk. She was excluded because after all, she was just a “temp.”
Why are people excluded?
People are excluded for a number of reasons. Maybe the person is different than the rest, or maybe he/she does not do things as well. Remember standing behind a volleyball net? We were sure the next time would be different if we were just given a shot. And then it happened. The ball spirals at us in full force. We put our hands up to protect our face and instead of hitting the ball with full force, the ball hits our hands and immediately drops down. We hear a groan but we’re uncertain if it’s coming from out classmates or from within ourselves.
Everyone wants to be included. We want to be part of something bigger, but this doesn’t always happen. And even when we thought we were included, we found ourselves somehow outside the circle looking in.
In a perfect world no one would be excluded. Each person would care for one another regardless of differences or abilities, just because. But the sad reality is we live in broken world with wounded people.
My parents raised me with many restrictions. I remember one rule in particular that my father would repeat, “You will not date until you are18 years old.” Feeling odd, I tried hiding those differences in an effort to blend in, but it didn’t work.
8th grade graduation luncheon. We all sat dressed up, at little decorated tables with our parents. Taking the microphone, the class president began. “ I’m going to announce what each 8th grade student is most likely to become.” My anxiety heightened as I awaited my turn.
“Anne is most likely to open up a blind date club.” The words stung deeply as I heard classmates all around me laughing. Tears slid down my reddened face and all I wanted to do was disappear.
I held together as it was time for the last segment of the program. Kenneth would announce what each of us would bequeath to the 7th grade class. Once again I felt myself tighten up.
“Anne will bequeath her long fingernails.” Once again laughter circulated, as I instinctively closed my hands into fists, hiding my short bitten fingernails. At that moment I realized I was not part of that class. That celebration turned into a bruise that lasted for years.
Is there something we can do to help those who feel the pain of being excluded?
If we look around, we can probably spot someone who feels excluded. Maybe we can lift the invisible wall, letting him/her enter. God is not a respecter of persons. We need to see others as God sees them. Every person matters. Every person has value. Maybe if we remember that we will include others more readily, making sure that no one sits outside the circle.