In our house, meaningful exchanges are usually three words or less.
Go to sleep. Eat your dinner. I love you. Pick that up. What’s that smell? Shut up (please). Stop eating boogies. Pack your bag. Put that down. Close your mouth. Who peed there? We are late. Give that back. Go to sleep (did I mention that one already?).
Internally, my dialogue is equally succinct: I need coffee. Am I fat? Get it together. I want Valium. You’re doing okay. You’re a mess. Where’s the charger? And the 3am insomniac mantra: Go to sleep. Go to sleep. Go to sleep.
Seems I’m in good company with my three-word sound bites. New Zealand’s eloquent Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern knows the value of the concise sentence. In the aftermath of the devastating Christchurch terrorist attack she schooled us with three words.
They. Are. Us.
In that simple statement, Ardern reminded heartbroken Muslims exactly where they belonged. She firmly placed refugees and immigrants in the centre of the warm circle that is “Us”.
Belonging: it’s time to open our circle
I suppose that’s what we all want. To belong. Arden’s words challenged me to think more carefully about who is part of my circle, my “Us”. And who is not. Turns out I’m not the all-embracing-big-hearted-welcome-to-Australia-woman-who-just-baked-you-a-pie that I’d like to be. Actually, I kinda suck at seeking out and holding hands with people who are fundamentally different from me.
See I like hanging out with people who are like me, because generally, they like me! And that’s just silly. I’m hyper aware that my girls are watching me, likely emulating my approach in the playground. At best, this circle-drawing is called bonding. At worst it becomes bullying.
My eldest daughter is 10. She’s commented on the playground politics, the game of “Us” versus “Not Us”. Little cliques of four or five made powerful by exclusivity. Twosomes and threesomes who carefully guard the gate of their inner sanctum. I think They Are Us would be a helpful way for her to think about other kids at school.
Kindness starts at home
In some ways, I’m proud of how my little girls already embody the message of They. Are. Us. on a base level. They know that little visitors to our home are to be treated like family (erm, like a family that gets along!). I loved watching my 7-year-old do anything she could last night to cheer up an 18-month old visitor who was missing her Mummy. She knew that this little one was “Us”. I want our home to be a place of belonging, for whoever needs a place to belong.
In a world that thrives on labels, I love the grounding descriptor of “Us”. But I want to learn how to broaden what that word means in my life. I think my definition is a little narrow, not by prejudice, but by default. Or more accurately, my fault.
As usual, when my thoughts are coming out like Sunday night scrambled eggs (because who wants to grocery shop on the weekend?) I look for wise words from Brene Brown:
“If we are going to change what is happening in a meaningful way we’re going to need to intentionally be with people who are different from us. We’re going to have to sign up and join, and take a seat at the table. We’re going to have to learn how to listen, have hard conversations, look for joy, share pain, and be more curious than defensive, all while seeking moments of togetherness.”
They. Are. Us.
It’s my new mantra.
This article was first published on The Motherlode. Reproduced with permission.