I have said it before and I will say it again – it’s all about relationships.
At the core of a truly inclusive classroom, school, synagogue, church, camp, or organization are relationships which are built on love, respect and trust.
I have written about building trust and earning or inspiring trust before. This is significant and not something to be taken lightly. Bringing intention to each and every interaction we have with others is hard work, but it is the way that we demonstrate our commitment to open, honest and meaningful relationships. We must also show kavod (respect) for one another’s differences and genuinely appreciate that gifts that each person has to offer.
But all of this is for naught if we forget about love.
To unconditionally love is to open ourselves to the relationships that can nourish our souls. This involves active listening, making eye contact, laughing, shared activities, joy, hugs and support. It does not mean giving in to their every request and letting them run the show. Rather, unconditional love demonstrates to others that they have value and worth.
We must unconditionally love others and we must, as hard as it may be, unconditionally love ourselves. A leader who shows herself unconditional love is willing to forgive herself. Such a leader displays confidence in his skills, and then has patience with the inevitable weaknesses that come with being human. This kind of self-love is about cherishing every opportunity to be a role model for others. Unconditional love for oneself is more about the ability to understand that it's possible to persevere through life’s hardest challenges and less about one’s self-image.
There is a song that I feel embodies this notion of unconditional love perfectly. Olam Chesed Yibaneh speaks to us about the world we want to create, the world we can create, offering us endless possibilities for relationships and inclusivity:
“I will build this world with love,
And you will build this world with love,
And if we build this world with love,
Then God will build this world with love” (adapted from Psalm 89:3)