One of my core values, in life and in business, is inclusiveness. It’s been that way since preschool. My rule, “be kind to the awkward kid,” means that I collect ‘quirky’ friends.
Chubby, chatterbox boy who got bullied? My three-year-old bestie. Girl who walked on her tip-toes, barked, and dressed as a Kleenex box? We’re still in touch. Boy who spent second grade UNDER his desk? I was confused when the teachers yelled, because clearly ALL THIS was too much for him.
Decades before the term ‘autism spectrum’ emerged, I had a working understanding of things like executive function disorder, sensory processing disorder, high sensitivity, ADHD, dyslexia, and a range of nervous system and chronic pain issues, simply because I loved my friends.
And when I love someone, I’m curious about them. When they struggle, I want to understand why.
Any group can cherry-pick ‘diversity’, and still serve cruelty and injustice to those who don’t check the right boxes. Merely ‘tolerating diversity’ is not inclusive. Not nearly.
Inclusiveness is much harder. It requires, not ‘tolerance’–who wants to be TOLERATED?–but love, curiosity, understanding, and accommodation.
Those things require time, attention, energy and humility.
And more often than not, we fail to invest in those things. We don’t see the benefit.
In business and politics, we can set up a false choice: include everyone, and be dragged down by the troublemakers, or exclude some, and rise.
By default, those excluded tend to have problems which overwhelm them.
But working to solve problems is how we learn and grow. When we exclude the strugglers, we lose access to valuable knowledge, insight, and creativity.
My ‘quirky’ friends? They have superpowers. The girl who dressed as a Kleenex box has a Nose—I now have a perfume WARDROBE thanks to her. A dyslexic friend can pack an entire Burning Man campsite into the trunk of a Honda. A massage therapist friend on the autism spectrum became a counter-intelligence hacker. An artist with ADHD draws comics which blow James Thurber out of the WATER.
Although Elizabeth Warren lives in my front window, I maintain friendships all over the political spectrum. This doesn’t mean “from centrist Republican to centrist Democrat.” It means “from card-carrying Marxist to Reason columnist.”
Because groupthink is dangerous.
(Fun fact: the Bush Administration wasn’t lying about WMDs in Iraq; they sincerely believed those WMDs existed. Because everyone in administration circles agreed on the facts. Only their circles—you guessed it—excluded those with access to different facts.)
No group or ideology has all the truth. Perspective keeps us honest.
These are the things I have no use for: Lies. Cruelty. Pettiness. Spite.
When any group of people use these tactics to further their agenda, it is no longer a difference of opinion. It’s a conflict of values.
Practical Sanctuary arose directly out of my inclusive values. My mission with this company is not just to make money doing what I love, although that’s important.
In my ideal world, every building is sustainable and sensory inclusive, as part of its design. Students shouldn’t have to hide under their desks from sensory overwhelm. Big-box store lighting shouldn’t make shopping an obstacle course for autistic people. People with chronic fatigue, disability and pain shouldn’t be shut-ins because cities have few places to rest.
And OBVIOUSLY, nobody should be shot for their skin color.