Everybody is a Star

You’re a shining star, no matter who you are

Shining bright to see that you can truly be

What you can truly be.

(Earth, Wind and Fire)

Everybody has a role, everybody has a purpose. Everybody has hopes and dreams. Everybody is a star.

Every. Body.

I just got to spend another day with “special needs” kids at the high school, kids with varying levels of learning issues, autism, downs all the way to profoundly crippling physical challenges. My kind of people.

These kids accept their uniqueness, their challenges and they do the best they can. “Regular” people need to as well. We could stand to learn a good deal from these special people.

Connecting with “special needs” people gives a person a special sense of fulfillment. If you haven’t had the opportunity to reach out, you’re incomplete. It may take a little extra effort, a higher level of patience and understanding sometimes. Are you up to it?

The reward is worth the risk and the effort.

*****

In our community’s schools–small town, 15,000–we’re blessed that the vast majority of our non- challenged kids go out of their way to include our “special” kids. They come into the special needs classrooms in their free times to work with / make an extra connection with the kids and it carries over into the community outside of school. “Mainstreaming” is alive and well here. It’s truly heart-warming to see, I’ve noticed it for years now.

Something I feel our community has been lucky enough to learn and practice needs to be more widespread. So often it’s not a matter of kids being mean or not caring, it’s just that they are unaware. Why don’t schools (AND the WORKPLACE!) expand the meaning of “diversity training” to include generally “special” people? How about “inclusion awareness training”.

Everybody is a star, doesn’t matter who you are (Sly Stone).

Trouble is, when educator / administrators (and too many private sector leaders too!) hear “diversity training” they think about compliance only, taking the narrow view of diversity—treating others equally regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual preference. All important, but there is more to true inclusion–sensitivity to others with any kind of differences, accepting others for who they are and what they’ve been given to work with, realizing everyone has a place. Too many just don’t get it that way!

Awareness and understanding needs to start first with us big kids. And we need to accept our roles as stewards of the younger generation’s attitudes toward special people. For the most part, the kids are doing a great job on their own. You think we should try to catch up?

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