In his writings to the Corinthian church, Paul provides explicit guidance about what should (and should not) happen when they assembled themselves together (I Corinthians 11; I Corinthians 14). But nestled between these passages is a section dedicated to spiritual gifts. Verse 7 of chapter 12 contains these critically important words: A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. And before delineating the specific areas of [spiritual] gifting (vv. 8-10), Paul establishes that their ultimate purpose is to benefit others. Using the human body as a metaphor for the local church (vv.12-27), each part (member) is necessary for its health and optimal functioning. In looking closer, let’s consider why diversity is essential to every aspect of our lives.
THE NEED FOR INCLUSION
Public education has implemented different instructional models to support students with disabling conditions. Although placing children in restrictive settings away from their non-disabled peers was once common and acceptable, the ineffectiveness of exclusionary approaches has led to students with disabilities remaining with their typically developing peers to the greatest extent possible.
Inclusive practices reinforce the fundamental idea that everyone has value. Especially for young people with varied strengths and weaknesses, inclusion communicates that all students are important members of a classroom and school community. In fact, if children are going to develop into responsible citizens who will make meaningful contributions to an increasingly global society, not only must they be exposed to people who represent different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, but they must also be taught to respect the spectrum of difference that exists in religious beliefs, political perspectives, and cognitive abilities. Such exposure not only helps them realize that they need others, but that they are also needed by their peers. I’ve seen it in my own professional practice: when students with weaker social skills are given opportunities to regularly engage with their counterparts who are displaying more prosocial behaviors, guess what happens? They learn to share, take turns, and participate in reciprocal conversational exchanges. And for those who may not have weaker skills in these areas, guess what they’re learning? Patience. Self-control. They are becoming more accepting of individual differences.
OPERATING AS AN ORCHESTRA
Ultimately responsible for making music from all of the sounds emanating from voices, trumpets, trombones, baritones, saxophones, flutes, clarinets, and percussive instruments under their batons, conductors have intimate knowledge of what each instrument can do and how it contributes to creating something holistically beautiful. But more than what they know about each instrument and voice in their ensembles, conductors also have a deep understanding of the music that they are directing. While standing before their respective musical aggregations, conductors are intently focused on each part—especially the ones that are seemingly insignificant—because they, too, are critically important to the final product.
Yes, conductors have a great deal of responsibility; but musicians do as well. Coupled with developing their technical proficiency through consistent practice, musicians and vocalists must listen to those around them in order to make music. In fact, the following admonition is rather appropriate: If you can’t hear your neighbor, you’re too loud! A conversation between instruments and voices, music depends on individuals selflessly bending their ears and continuously adjusting what they are doing so that it fits with the other parts. Similar to young people working collaboratively with their peers, when musicians and vocalists listen to one another, not only are they learning to appreciate that everyone has a part to play, but the other parts help them sound even better.
Stay tuned… The next post encourages leaders to advocate for diversity in their respective organizations and individuals to embrace their gifting as necessary contributions to the greater good.