Recently, I have been reading about welcoming communities and I came across this quote and it really resonated with me:
A welcoming and inclusive community is a community where its citizens and members feel safe, respected, and comfortable in being themselves and expressing all aspects of their identities. It is a place where each person shares a sense of belonging with its other members. It is home.
—Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan
This is a wonderful description of a welcoming community. It is an ambitious goal but we could try to live out this vision here in Crown Point. I would like to suggest two things we can do as individuals to continue to cultivate a welcoming community in Crown Point.
Treat everyone with respect. I think most of would say that we are respectful of people in our community. But are we? Do we treat others with respect when they are different from us in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status? It is so easy to respect those whom we perceive to be the same as we are. The creative tension happens when we come up against someone whom we perceive to be different from us.
When I was a student minister I did an internship at a shelter for homeless women and children. I didn’t have any experience or knowledge about homelessness. How would I relate to people who seemed so different from me? In the end, it was an enriching experience that has stayed with me all through my ministry. It was enriching not because I did well or accomplished my goals. It was enriching because I came face to face with all of my assumptions about people who live in shelters. My beliefs were challenged and there were moments when I experienced feelings of shame and embarrassment. But the deep connection that evolved over eight months happened because we mutually trusted and respected one another.
Respect for ourselves and one another is vital in order to be a welcoming community. So, I encourage you to lean into your discomfort and respect those whom you perceive to be different, those you don’t like for whatever reason, those whom you have deemed are not worthy of your respect. Change happens when we open our hearts and minds to a different possibility.
Practice active listening. We all have a desire to be heard and understood. Author Stephen Covey wrote, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” I think this statement is more factual than most of us would like to admit. How often have you been talking to someone only to have them interrupt or respond quickly with a story? How often have you been listening to someone waiting to make a comment not trying to understand but wanting to reply? We all do it. However, if we want to be more welcoming in Crown Point it requires listening to understand. Asking clarifying questions. Being present with the other person.
As members of the Crown Point community, we all have the opportunity to do our part to make this a more welcoming community. As we move forward in 2019 may we continue to open our hearts, minds, and spirits to one another and be an amazing community.