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Remember cliques? Those little groups that formed in high school, usually amongst girls?
Cliques were when little clans of two or three girls would gather in hallways, bathrooms, lunchrooms and the gym. Anyone who wanted to enter their exclusive group was given a non-verbal look that said loud and clear, “you’re just not cool.”
Fast forward to a group of 30-something women (never men – they are just not into cliques!). These types of scenarios occur with adults as well, unfortunately. Snobbishness, exclusionary behaviors, talking only to folks from one’s inner circles and not trying to expand horizons and meet new people. Intolerance, prejudice, elitism. It’s all there.
Last night my husband and I had an amazing, warm and fuzzy experience at a lovely party.
We went to a dinner party that was held in honor of our rabbi’s son who got married last week. The party, or sheva brachos (one of seven nightly parties held for the week after a couple gets married) was lovely. What amazed me was the warmth and friendship amongst our shul (synagogue) members. My husband and I have been attending this shul for the past several decades, as have many of our friends. And the shul keeps growing and new members keep joining. As soon as someone joins, they are greeted warmly by a welcoming committee, and are invited out for Shabbos meals.
Sometimes members move away, often to Israel or somewhere across the U.S. And yet, everyone stays close. We celebrate the happy occasions from afar of the ones who move away, and we embrace and rejoice with the life cycle events of those who join us. We are all one family.
At the party last night, I experienced all that. It suddenly dawned on me: We have a wonderful Shul with wonderful people.
I felt that wonderfulness completely. I heard it in the speaker who recounted his memories teaching the groom back in 3rd grade when he was a rookie teacher. I saw it in the gorgeous centerpieces, crafted by a committee of talented ladies who arranged the catering and party planning. I tasted it in the chicken that was stuffed with something so delicious. And I felt it in the warmth of the hugs distributed between some of the family and myself.
Inclusion is a hot word these days. In special education, teachers are encouraged to include special needs children with typical children in the same classroom, and run classrooms that work. With inclusion aides, sensitivity awareness amongst students, and other accommodations this works very well.
But adults are not always so cheery and kumbaya. Cliques and exclusionary behaviors abound and it is really pretty sad.
Often when there is a group of adults mingling at a social hall for a wedding, bar mitzvah, engagement party or charity function, you will see a scene not so different from the backyard politics of high school girls.
Someone might go over to sit down at a table full of people, find an empty chair and be told, “Oh – that seat is being reserved!”
But, as I experienced last night at the Shul event, none of that has to happen. It can be warm and fuzzy if we just make it that way.
What has your experience been at a recent party or community event? Let me know. I’d love to read your thoughts.
Tags: acceptance, cliques, community, friendships, high school, inclusion, social events, tolerance