A Welcoming to Inclusion

Hello my name is… Jonny Lifshitz. I use the male pronouns of he, him, his.

When my wife Carrie and I first attended Unitarian Universalist services 15 years ago, we were warmly welcomed by smiling faces, each with name tags around their necks. To me, this was an intentional action that expressed a willingness to share; a willingness to get to know one another. If we know something about a person, just their name, then preconceived notions begin to melt away. It becomes easier to start a conversation: “I have a relative with the same name!” “Tell me about your name.” UUCP has taken further steps to accelerate conversation and welcome each of us by presenting our preferred pronouns on our name tags. What great information to open a conversation, using words that welcome and invite.

As one part of our vision, we work towards being radically inclusive. As a member of the board, we commit to living into inclusion. As a member of the inclusion team, joined by Larry Reed and Vince Waldron from the board, I work to empower each of us to be a smiling face, a welcoming conversation, and a part of our community. I find the opportunity at hand and ahead to be radically different from an approach of political correctness. Being politically correct means using words that don’t offend others, however the tone used to express words can be more hurtful than the words themselves. Over the past 5 months, I have heard our son Dylan refine his speech oratory on profanity, where in 10 minutes he can take neutral words and make the audience cringe. To this end, our work is about conversations that lead to understanding and expressed through kindness. The measurable result will be forming new relationships and strengthening existing ones between our members, who connect as friends.

Some may suggest that a meaningful relationship depends on active listening, as defined by listening without thought. If that is the definition, then I am incapable of active listening. When I ask others about themselves, I embark on a journey of discovery, a scavenger hunt, a mystery. This is an opportunity to learn about a specific world view, open a vault of experiences, and share in the personal and emotional growth. As my sons will attest, these conversations often exceed the limits of their patiently waiting. This only means that relationships are being built, as defined by a desire to return to the journey, the scavenger hunt, the mystery. As we work to live into our vision, I invite you to be part of the din that fills the sanctuary, the Johnson room, the hallways, by getting to know your community.