Inclusion at Camp and Beyond

The drumbeat of ‘connection’ has been loud and persistent in my world over the past several weeks.

The first beats of the drum came from reading Father Greg Boyle’s Barking to the Choir. His stories of kinship and the need to be there for each other are heartbreaking, uplifting and important.  

Next, the ACA National Conference in Nashville focused almost solely on building an inclusive experience for all. Dr. Sonya Whitaker spoke eloquently on the benefits that come from reaching outside our normal bubbles to connect with those different than ourselves. The drumbeat grew louder.

On a recommendation from a friend I respect, Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe was next on the reading list. While he bases his work on war veterans and their desperate need for connection back home, he writes beautifully about how we all should take responsibility for one another. The drum beat grew louder still.

Connection at Camp Southern Ground

The crescendo of connection came from spending time at Camp Southern Ground and an eye-opening campfire conversation with their camp director, Scott Hicok. Scott and his team are truly living the mantra of connection and community.

The passion project of Zac Brown, leader of the Zac Brown Band, Camp Southern Ground is an important connection laboratory. Children come from four major ‘realms’ – ‘typically’ developing children, children who have the challenge of Asperger’s or something similar in their lives, children from underserved and impoverished families, and children from US Military Gold, Silver or White Star families.

These children come together for one week at a time at Camp Southern Ground. By together, I mean living together, playing together, learning together, eating together and everything else together. They form a tribe as a bunk and spend the week playing alongside each other.

As adults, we look at these children through on own individual lens, one that we’ve developed through our past experiences.

The kids? The world has not given them a distinct lens yet. Rather, they approach life with an innate understanding that we, as humans, are so much more alike than different and that those differences should be understood and celebrated. And, with the help

Building Connection and Inclusion

It’s important that our bubbles become more inclusive. Not because of some form of charity. Instead, we should do so because, as Scott points out often in our conversation, it makes our bubble better.

Don’t worry about what you can’t do in hopes of becoming more inclusive. Focus, intead, on what you can do. What at the little moves you can make and little moments you can create that leads to a more inclusive environment that fits your current world?

It’s time we all start making that list and working through it.