Including The Excluded

Including The Excluded

Why listening and patience play a big role in social interactions.
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A year ago, I got the chance to go to Camp Unity. There are many reasons why it was one of the best camps I’ve gone to and it wasn’t because of the food or the cabins, but because of the people and the vision that they hold. They aim to create an environment where people with and without disabilities can interact and do activities that don’t exclude the people who may not comprehend what is happening. After going to this camp, it really made me reflect on my own actions, how I treat my sister who is on the Autism Spectrum and how I could change my actions so that I am more inclusive.

My sister is probably one of the smartest people that I know, but I will admit that I am not always the most patient with her. She processes information differently. It’s one of the reasons I believe her to be so intelligent. But it’s because of this that I judge her too quickly at times and become irritated when she doesn’t comprehend something according to my standards when she is understanding information perfectly according to her own standards.

I believe this is one of the major faults that we have as a society. Just because someone may think differently than us or take more time to assess the information they are given, we end up disabling the disabled. Sure, they may be socially awkward and may comprehend things differently than the average person does, but I think we tend to put more weight on the individual’s disability than their ability. This is something that hit me really hard after I finished the camp. Interacting with everyone there made me realize that I could put more faith in my sister because she knows what she’s doing better than I think she does.

This idea can apply to other people with or without disabilities. As a culture, we need to learn to listen more than we talk. This is something my dad says often, and it’s true! If we listened more than we talked, we would learn more, because we are observing rather than focusing on our own opinions. If we listened more than we talked, we would be able to see the abilities of those around us and the gifts that they possess no matter who they are. It’s because of the fact that we are such a selfish culture that we exclude the people we should include.

In addition to listening, I think we need more patience. Sure, some of us are more gifted with patience than others, but if we all had more patience and listened more, then maybe an environment like the one at Camp Unity could be an all-around reality rather than something that only happens during a three-day-long camp.

People who have interacted with someone with disabilities probably know what I’m talking about. The individual might not understand what you are trying to convey initially, whether it’s instructions to a game or an explanation of the function of the alveolus, but if we had the patience to explain so that they understand, we could include the excluded instead of brushing the person off as being incapable and thus using their disability as an excuse to not include them.

Overall, there are a lot of things that we could change to make our world a better place, but if we start with something as simple as being patient and listening, then maybe changing the world for the better won’t be as daunting of a task.

Cover Image Credit: Markus Spiske

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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This One’s For Africa

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Read through to the end for an amazing Toto reference.

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It's now been a week since I stepped foot on the African continent for the first time in my life. I first visited Johannesburg, where my dad and I spent a day on an 'apartheid tour.'

This tour consisted of visiting Shanty Town, one of the poorest communities in South Africa. The living conditions were indeed different. They had to steal electricity through homemade wires connected to the telephone poles. They had only a few porta potties for ten families to share. They had several spickets to obtain fresh water from. There was no heating in the houses, which were made from pieces of painted aluminum.

Such inconvenient circumstances have come from years of oppression towards black people in South Africa. It was incredibly sad to know that these problems still exist and that apartheid only ended so recently.

On the other hand, the people showed very little anger. Despite their living situations, the people of Shanty Town were so kind and welcoming. Everyone we passed smiled and waved, often even saying hello or asking about our wellbeing.

It brought some serious warmth to our hearts to see their sense of community. Everyone was in it together, and no man was left behind. They created jobs and opportunities for one another. They supported each other.

The next part of the day included a tour of Nelson Mandela's old house. We then made a trip to the Apartheid Museum.

Overall, Johannesburg did not disappoint. The city contains a rich history that human beings as a whole can learn a lot from. Johannesburg is a melting pot that still contains a multitude of issues concerning racism and oppression of certain cultures.

After two days in Johannesburg, my family made our way to Madikwe game reserve, where we stayed at Jaci's Lodge.

The safari experience was absolutely incredible. Quite cold (it's winter in Africa right now), but amazing enough to make up for the shivering. We saw all my favorite animals: giraffes galore, elephants, zebras, impalas, lions, hyenas, wildebeests, rhinos, you name it. While my favorite animal will always be the giraffe, I don't think any sighting could beat when two different herds of elephants passed through a watering hole to fuel up on a drink.

Finally on June 1st, I flew to George to start my program with Africa Media in Mossel Bay. On Sunday, we went on an 'elephant walk.'

The safari was certainly cool, but that makes the elephant walk ice cold. We got to walk alongside two male elephants - one was 25, the other 18. They were so cute!! We got to stroke their skin, trunk, and tusks. They had their own little personalities and were so excited to receive treats (fruits and vegetables) at the end of the journey.

My heart couldn't be more full. Africa, you have become my favorite continent. And it sure is going to take a lot to drag me away from you.

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