One of my lectures that got the most feedback was where I taught youth work theory through clips from the television series Friends. To illustrate inclusion – deciding if you want to be in or out – I showed the scene from early on in Season 1 where Rachel is being encouraged to cut up the credit cards which are on her father’s account. The sub-plot seemed to say if she did it she was one of them, if she didn’t she wasn’t. However, for many of us we are not those who have the power to decide if we are in or out, others do that.
What prompted this reflection was reading the very sad story of Elliot Rodger who killed six people and left evidence that this was because of the exclusion and rejection he had felt for most of his life. I was challenged yet again as to how we discuss and engage with diversity, with difference, with belonging and inclusion. This on a day where one of the news headlines is that one third of people admit racial prejudice. The picture on this blog is the names of some of those who died under apartheid in South Africa. Every person should have a place where they feel they belong, where they are accepted for who they are without having to pretend or live up to the expectations of others. Creating such places is what so many youth workers do and I am enormously grateful for those I have worked with over many years who seek to do that, particularly with young people who struggle to find that in many other places. Having other adults in their lives who think they are special is a gift to offer young people, any of us can do that, show an interest, listen, take the initiative, remember… I lament that there are young people who feel that they are out, not in, and continue to hope that youth work is one of those activities that works towards them feeling that they are in – at least somewhere.