The Blessings of Inclusion & Belonging: I see you; I accept you!

We’ve heard a lot about inclusion and belonging in today’s culture. Verna Myers, a leading diversity and inclusion expert, says, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Bates Communication has added, “belonging is being asked for input into the playlist for the dance music and feeling free to ask anyone you want to dance with you.”

Growing up, I had a good friend Eugene, who was always a little unique. Back then, I didn’t understand the full capacity of his uniqueness. As a kid, he was mischievous. He once put his family car in reverse while his Mom ran into the Jr Foods store. He got his head stuck behind a hot water heater and marbles stuck in his nose. He also climbed a tree and was too afraid to come down; the fire department had to rescue him. 

A childhood accident left him blind in one eye. Being partially blind didn’t slow him down. He was also a juvenile diabetic; he started checking his blood sugar and taking insulin at nine years old. Eugene was a multi-leveled kid. Though he had many challenges, he remained resilient. 

My friend had swag and great taste in fashion and music. He was a fan of wrestling and the University of Florida football. He was small in stature, but you couldn’t tell him he wasn’t 6’7 ft. His temper could go from a Pomeranian to a Pitbull in an instant. He wouldn’t let anyone run over him. 

Eugene was smart. As a young man, he tutored others in Math. He also taught himself Spanish to better assist customers while employed at Radio Shack. He attended community college, where he aspired to earn a degree in education. Unfortunately, at age 26, he was involved in a car accident that nearly took his life. He was left with kidney failure and a traumatic brain injury. He never earned a degree in education, but he was indeed an educator. 

I learned the following blessings of inclusion and belonging: 

  • Empathy and Acceptance
  • Resiliency 
  • Advocacy 
  • Unconditional Love 

My friend, Eugene, was also my brother. He passed away October 1, 2021, at 39 years old due to complications from diabetes. Though no longer here physically, the blessings of inclusion and belonging shaped my life’s experiences. 

“One must know not just how to accept a gift, but with what grace to share it.” -Maya Angelou

I hope by sharing the gift of my friend and brother, you will be intentional to accept the differences in others; and look for the blessings.

Jenita L. Broxton CPPB, FCCM, FCCN, is an Inclusive Leader, Accessibility Advocate, and Cultural Intelligence Champion who is passionate about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. To connect with Jenita, you can visit https://www.facebook.com/jenita.broxton.1, call 352-354-2560, or email her at Jenita.broxton@gmail.com.