My Facebook friend Menno Deen asked me if I’d prepare a short presentation on “diversity” that he could use to help promote his Games [4Diversity] Jam. He didn’t have to convince me. Diversity (or, as I seem to be calling it, “inclusion”) has been a central theme of my work since, well, at least 1984. In the video that resulted, I explain why.
The New Games Foundation was this organization that would do these large-scale public events. There’s a long history of my involvement with New Games and you can find much of it on my sites: deepFUN.com and aPLAYFULpath.com.
I had this one experience at the second time New Games produced a festival for maybe a thousand people. A lot of the games were cooperative, some were competitive. It didn’t really matter because the focus of the games was that everybody could play. Anybody who wanted to play could play. If the game seemed too hard, well, we’d change the rules or make the play area larger or smaller or we’d bring another ball in – whatever – find some way that everybody could play. That was the basic assumption of the event because what we were trying to do was to build community.
There was this one game called “People Pass” – a silly, cooperative game that has no actual purpose in life other than to give each other a little thrill ride. We would stand in two parallel lines, side by side, arms raised. The first person in line would get passed overhead from the front to the back of the line. (here’s another picture)(It could have gotten a little too intimate, but, by the time we played it, we had already established an implicit agreement that we would take care of each other. Weren’t there to hurt each other or abuse each other’s trust. We would touch each other, but gently, and make sure that the people we were touching felt safe.) I was helping to facilitate, and this one guy decided to join the game, and he was in a wheel chair. So we took him out of his chair and passed him overhead, all the way down the line.
First of all, the look on that guy’s face – well, he was, literally, transported. At the same time, he was just filled with this glee and laughter. It was beautiful. And, for me, it was the first time I had ever put my hands on somebody in a wheel chair. It was the first time! And that was the source of the realization that led me to everything since. It was so beautiful. So deeply “touching.” And it was something that I could help happen, and seemed to happen so naturally. People seemed so ready to do that, just given the permission, given the opportunity, given the sense of playfulness and the knowledge that the whole purpose was just to share fun – that they could create a community where everybody cared about each other. A caring, inclusive community.
And that’s really the point.
Allow me to explain my shirt:
There’s a ME on top and a WE on the bottom. And the WE is like the shadow of the ME. But together, they form a new thing, which kind of looks like a butterfly. I don’t mean to get too poetic. But if we can create a community that supports each individual in the community, we can create something truly beautiful. We can create what I call a “play community” – a community that is focused on inclusion.
(See Inclusion Cont’d)