Welcoming Before Inclusion?

by Rika Asaoka

I visited my friend in Queensland last month. I had neither seen her nor exchanged emails for almost 10 years except for a quick exchange of emails two years ago, in which she told me that she had moved to Queensland.

I had to attend a conference in Queensland and thought that I would contact her to see if she would like to catch up with me for coffee. She responded with a warm enthusiasm and convinced me to extend my trip a few extra days and to stay at her house, which I gratefully accepted. I had a slight concern about whether we would be fine with each other because we were almost like strangers for many years.

My stay turned out to be one of the best experiences of staying at “Somebody’s house”. She and her husband were fantastic hosts. They welcomed me so warmly and effortlessly included me into their family activities.

On the day I arrived, she declared in the kitchen, “By the time you leave this house, you’ll know where all the household items are kept in this house.”

The next couple of days, we prepared meals together, decided where to eat in the house, and while we watched TV, we put up our feet and ate ice cream.

One night, when my friend’s daughter daughter and kids came by to stay over on the weekend, my friend walked out from shower in a towel, passed one of her grandkids also in a towel to me and asked me to help dry him up.

I felt included in her family. I was not merely a visitor. I was part of their life in those four days.

Interestingly, after I came back to Perth, I attended several events on the topic of “Inclusion”. That got me thinking.

Who includes? Who is included? Who is ready to include? Who is ready to be included?

As I reflected on the visit to my friend, I thought about how if we don’t welcome, we can’t include and if we don’t feel welcomed, we don’t feel included.

What happened is:

I reached out to her.

She was welcoming.

I wanted to be welcomed.

She welcomed me with open arms.

I felt welcomed.

She included me to her days.

I felt included.

She said it was their treat to have me at their place.

Inclusion and Diversity strategies have come so far. Many structures and processes have been in place in many organisations and they are still progressing.

Now, it may be a good time to rethink how we feel about it. I would like to ask people this question: Putting aside diplomacy and politics, on a personal level, do you want to welcome migrants, refugees, people with disabilities and other marginalised groups of people to your workplace and neighbourhood?

If yes, why?

If not, why not?

The answers would probably provide us a way to a real cohesion where people are collectively happy to have each other regardless of differences.

While we are on “Inclusion”, we might need to check in to see if we truly welcome people.

To welcome we need to:

  • Maintain curiosity
  • Know benefits, both tangible and intangible
  • Have knowledge
  • Be generous
  • Have an open mind for a new experience
  • Have the appropriate hardware ready eg. Facility, space
  • Have a heartset

I thank my dear friend Hilary and her husband Victor in Queensland for such a wonderful time.