Sea turtles, hummingbirds, palm trees, and breathtaking sunsets surrounded me over the holiday season. I was traveling with a large group of my family, visiting the gorgeous Caribbean island of Martinique. There were eleven of us there, ranging from age 7 to age 80. Even while on vacation, I was unable to stop noticing the beauty of inclusion.
One night, we ate dinner at a beachside restaurant. As soon as they had finished their food, my aunt allowed my younger cousins to play on the beach. My ten-year-old cousin Alison* met a new friend, Noelle.* Alison and Noelle were having some difficulty communicating, because in Martinique, most people speak French. Noelle spoke French but not English, and Alison spoke English but not French. Alison, at first, was heartbroken. She struggled to say anything to her new friend, but she so desperately wanted to befriend her, to play with her. I studied French in school, so I was able to translate some for the girls, but I did not know how to say everything Alison wanted to say, nor did I understand everything Noelle was saying.
Eventually, though, the girls were able to find connection by playing in the sand, making silly faces at each other, and lots of smiling and laughing. I could not help but think that this was an amazing example of inclusion! Alison and Noelle did not communicate the same way. They had trouble at first, but then they got creative, and they were both able to contribute to a beautiful sand castle. When the night ended, and it was time for us to leave the beach, both girls were so disappointed to say good bye. There were hugs and smiles, and an “A demain!” (“See you tomorrow!”) from Noelle. At KIT, we talk often about helping children connect when they do not speak the same language– when they communicate in different ways or need different levels of support. This was the same story. Ultimately, all children want someone to play with them and someone to accept them. And ultimately, they are able to find that, regardless of communication barriers or differences in their abilities.
Amidst all of the natural beauty all around us in Martinique, I will carry the memory of inclusion between my cousin and her new French-speaking friend for years to come.
— Written by Elise Hopkins, KIT Blog Editor
*Names have been changed for confidentiality