I recently received an email from my friend, Trevor. He is an emerging leader in our community and we are both members of a "Social Justice Conversation Group" that meets monthly, that I usually host at our agency, CLASS in Pittsburgh.
Trevor was writing to thank me for practicing "graceful inclusion" for him and others that might arrive a bit late for our meetings. He said that whenever he comes in late, I will always welcome him and softly catch him up with the conversation. He said that this gesture always lessens the awkwardness of being late and makes him feel genuinely welcomed.
Now I am not so sure how conscious I am with this, but I do know that when I enter any gathering late, it is hard to know what has been happening, and how I might squeeze into the discussion. This is often not only awkward, but might be the reason folks decide to not engage at all if they find themselves late.
Trevor's email got me to thinking about all of the small aspects that might be a part of "graceful inclusion." The notion of offering coffee, or drinks; making sure that people know one another; assuring that the newcomer have a physical place in the discussion; inviting reticent folks to weigh in on the topic - all of these are parts of "graceful inclusion."
For people to not only engage, but want to come back to the discussion the next time, is really incumbent on the existing members to be aware of the welcoming process. So the next time you are involved in some sort of engagement, be the first to practice "graceful inclusion." Not only will the newcomer feel good, but the other members will benefit in the process.