Learning About Inclusiveness from our Kids

One of the great joys of my work is that I get to witness, or sometimes just overhear, the spiritual wonderings and discoveries of people from the nursery to the nursing home. I am eager for this new year, eager to continue the journey with you, eager to think and act together, to reflect on our experiences, and perhaps to think and act differently next time based on what we discover about ourselves and the world around us.

I am struggling to get better at recognizing and changing my behavior with people whose gender identity doesn’t conform to one of the two choices I was taught were the full extent of the available options.

Those ruts are deep after 57 years, and yet I know it matters deeply for those of us who don’t conform to feel seen, heard, and respected. And so I try again, and again, to use different and sometimes unfamiliar pronouns, to monitor what I say for gender assumptions, and to notice who is represented and who is not in the stories I tell in worship and community gatherings.

I was so proud of our children and youth when I overheard, in the Children’s Village, a conversation between several children and youth about Santa Claus and how he could look different in Germany than he did in the United States. Older children were mindful of the younger children’s feelings, and it was a boy who (so far) presents as cisgender who carefully proposed that there are seven Santas, one for each continent, and that probably each of them represented one of the different sorts of gender identities people have. I can imagine how affirming that felt to the gender nonconforming children and youth who were in the room, and I was deeply touched by the way they made this cultural story so inclusive. They laughed together as they discussed who would eventually grow a beard and who would not, and made offers to trade beards so that anyone who wanted one could have one.

Our seventh, eight, and ninth graders will be starting the Our Whole Lives human sexuality curriculum this month. We will be offering bi-weekly sessions for the parents so they can stay closely connected to what their children are learning and continue the conversations at home.

After overhearing that conversation about the seven Santas (who I kind of picture in a rainbow of suits with white trim!) I know that they will make good use of what they learn to make the world a better, healthier place for everyone.

With love and a wish for ever-growing compassion in our living,