The Power That Multiplies

Fences and gates. Passcodes, badges, limited invites, first class tickets, cordoned off seating areas.

There are many markers of exclusion - those subtle and overt signifiers of who belongs and who doesn’t. Being exclusive is easy. It’s also powerful; having the keys to the kingdom and deciding who can come in is a commanding place to be in.

Now, let’s look at some markers of inclusion. A few come to mind:

Pulling a chair up to the table for a new arrival. Explaining an inside joke, decoding coded jargon, providing context for someone who wouldn’t, couldn’t have understood it otherwise.

Gestures of inclusion are gestures of welcome. They show, whether in word or deed, “You belong here.” Or better yet, “We were hoping you’d come.”

Like exclusion, inclusion is powerful. But inclusion’s power goes deeper, leaves richer traces. The exclusion of first-class tickets is narrow and time-limited. For the flight to Phoenix, I - and I alone - enjoy the free snacks and flight attendant calling me Ms. Whelan. It is power, yes. Not the kind, though, that reaches out and moves our world forward.

But the power of inclusion has a long shelf life. I don’t forget when someone opens up a circle to make room for me or explains an acronym everyone else seems to know. Each gesture is like being handed the ennobling power of belonging. And I take that power forward into my life, opening up circles and unpacking acronyms.

So it’s not uncommon that our inclusive acts outlive us, may even outsize us. The power of them isn’t just ours alone. It is a power extended to those who are included and to those whom they include going forward.

And the power that multiplies, the power that says, “You belong here, you are wanted here,” that is the power that can move our world forward.

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