Inclusion & The Power of Touch
by Erin Prewitt on June 21st, 2015

It was a gorgeous day in the Santa Ynez Mountains.  The family and I were enjoying our camping trip and getting some much needed R&R.  I had taken my three boys down to the pool to swim and burn off some of their energy.  The boys started a good ol fashion game of Marco Polo.  They had been playing for 10 or 15 minutes when a new boy came to the pool.  The new boy was roughly the same age, he was alone, and his body language suggested he was a bit unsure of himself.  Instantly I felt an empathetic connection to him…I remembered so many days when I felt the odd guy out.  You know what I am talking about; being one of the last kids chosen to join the team at recess, or trying to fit in at a new school.  Heck, even as an adult there are those awkward moments where you feel a bit insecure in a new setting.  So, from my own experiences, I could tell he wanted to join the game, he sort of watched from the side of the pool.  I couldn’t’t help but initiate the Inclusion by suggesting to my boys that they should invite him to join them.
My boys are a tight group, I imagine they could be intimidating to an outsider because they are so close and content with each other.  Together they waded over to the new kid.  They looked the boy in the eye, and asked him if he would like to join them.  At first, the boy was technically in the game, but he was not truly ‘in the game’…he was sort of swimming on the outskirts, his shouting of ‘polo’ was faint and timid.  This went on for a few minutes.   And then it happened, my youngest son Mason touched the new kid, and the dynamic of the game completely shifted.  The new kid was now truly part of the game, you could see his apprehension about fitting in vanish.  He shouted ‘POLO’ with rigor, his smile was wide and genuine.
I originally became aware of Inclusion and the Power of Touch while I was participating in a leadership training event at the Colorado State University Ropes Course.  The message was again delivered at a similar course I took at UCLA a few years later.  The message is- in a new game or environment people are generally uncertain of the rules of engagement, and as a result, they tend not to fully participate.  But a simple touch changes the game.  Just like it did in the pool for my boys, my experience with this (in each of the ropes courses) shows that a simple touch brings people in, the boundaries are broken down, and true engagement begins.  
I continued proudly watching from the side line.  My boys and I often talk about what it is like to be the outsider, and how nice it feels when people reach out to include us.  I was delighted at how quickly they opened up their game to the new kid.  But I was just doubled over with pride that it was my youngest son that actually showed his courage by being the person to truly bring the new kid into the game.  As the youngest of 3, he often has two big brothers standing up for him.  He is the baby of the family, and fits many of those stereotypical traits expected from the youngest child.  But on this day, he reached out first, and bravely welcomed a new friend to join the group.

I really treasure these moments as a parent.  It was literally a ‘payday’ for all those other days when I wondered if our messages were actually landing with them.  To see them employ a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives was both surreal and rewarding in the greatest sense.  My wife Shelly and I work really hard to guide our boys to be good people.  Early on in our marriage we made a commitment to put our family first.  And when we were blessed with three boys, we made it our parenting mission to “Raise Gentleman”.  That day by the pool I was reminded how important it is to step back at times and trust my sons to make their own choices.  I was both touched, and inspired by my little guy’s gentlemanly behavior and his determination to include a stranger.  

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