Sometimes we create "a space" for an item. A drawer, file folder, closet shelf, or hidden nook becomes the home for an item so that it is out of sight, but can be found or accessed as needed. When we create "a space" for something, we seclude it in its own location where it is out of sight or out of the way until needed. Other times we create "space" for an item. We move living room furniture to accommodate a new sofa, re-arrange a china cabinet to include another figurine or dish, or change a wall grouping to incorporate a new picture or piece of artwork. When we create "space" for something, we incorporate the item into a particular setting so that it can be used or enjoyed as we go about our daily lives.
What about people? Do we create "a space" for some and create "space" for others? Do we relegate some middle school or high school peers (or work colleagues or family members) to the fringes of our social interactions, while including others in our discussions and outings? Do we put a disruptive child in a corner of the classroom while we provide instruction to the rest of the class in the center of the room? Do we install a wheelchair ramp or a hearing aid system in our places of worship so that we can point to the "spaces" we're creating for those with disabilities, while neglecting to create "space" for them by sitting with them during the service, inviting them to our homes, or ensuring that they can also join our small group discussion or coffee times? Do we cook special foods for a person on a limited diet, while we continue to enjoy the forbidden foods in their presence?
I'm learning to re-think the accommodations I make for the people around me. Some are simply "token efforts" designed to make me feel as though I'm doing the right thing by creating "a space" for them. But I'm neglecting to incorporate them--their strengths as well as their challenges--into my daily life. In other words, I'm not creating "space" for them.
What about you? What about your home, school, place of employment, community, or place of worship? Have you done a good job of creating "a space" for some individuals around you, without ensuring that there is meaningful "space" for them? Doing so implies (whether or not it's intentional) that they are not important enough to be included in the types of interactions we reserve for others. Why are we quick to relegate some people to "a space" while we incorporate others into our own space? Sometimes it's because of past experience, or opinions we've formed from prejudicial comments others have said. Sometimes it's because of a lack of understanding or personal experience with those who are "different." Sometimes it's simply because it's easier, since it doesn't require creativity, effort, trying new ways of doing things, or the exercising of hospitality.
A commitment to promoting social insight and understanding necessitates the deliberate creation (and regular maintenance) of "space" for those around us! It means exercising hospitality and inclusion, whether we are playing, parenting, teaching, working, worshiping, or simply going about our daily lives.
A special thanks to those of you who so graciously excel in creating space for others. You are a true inspiration to me!