The Gift that Keeps on Giving? Inclusivity, Especially During the Holidays with an Invite

During the holiday season, those who are alone and may not have an invite for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah candle lighting and dinner with latkes, Christmas or New Year’s Eve or Day festivities may feel more alone than ever. 

Sitting at home with a one-person portion of turkey and fixings that you might have brought in from the grocery store, no chit-chat with others or going to work at a food pantry to help others can be an okay substitute—it’s only one day. However, it’s not the same as being invited! 

Everyone has experienced not being included for some event—whether a birthday lunch or dinner, a wine gathering at a clubhouse, a movie outing or a group Zoom call. How did it make you feel? Be honest. 

Being left out when you know others are getting together usually hurts. We’ve written about it before (“Inclusive: Err on the Side of Being Kind,” 6/21/2019), but given that we’re between the Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve period, we encourage you, dear readers, to be kind and reach out to those who are alone or part of a couple and have nowhere to go. 

Where does this notion of trying to be inclusive stem from? Definitely a spirit of generosity that we may have learned from our parents or simply because we were excluded at times. We don’t want to upset others if we can avoid it, yet sometimes, we do.   

Margaret’s late mother Bea was an elegant, classy lady who left her family many wise lessons before she died eight years ago. Barbara was the lucky recipient of some of the advice by way of her working with Margaret for so many years. One nugget she shared that Barbara took away has remained deeply engrained in both our brains: always to err on the side of being inclusive rather than exclusive, when possible. “Invite the extra person or people or couples. Don’t leave anyone out on purpose,” she’d say.

Barbara’s beau, who hails from South of the Mason-Dixon line, has mastered some Southern mores and shared similar advice when Barbara has organized a dinner or gathering of friends or family. “Do the right thing and include so-and-so,” he’ll say, if she’s debating about someone or if Barbara hadn’t thought to do so. “Everyone likes to be invited,” he’ll remind her.

When you’re not invited and hear about the event, it can feel like a punch to the stomach. How would you react if you introduced a friend to another friend, those two make plans for getting together and leave you out? Sad? We bet.

Barbara and a former date were left off one dinner party list since there wasn’t room around the table for the date, and then supposedly not enough food. Her date joked, “Why can’t they just add more water to the soup or squeeze in another place?” Obviously, they didn’t want to. Initially, it caused upset.

At other times, it’s not an outright slight but an oversight. We rush. We make excuses for not including someone: “Oh, she’s learning bridge in classes and would never have time to meet us.” Woah! Don’t assume. Ask. It’s unfair and not right for others to assume how we want to spend our time. 

Yes, sometimes, it is because someone might not like someone and come up with an excuse to exclude them. “Oh, she’ll spoil the event because she’s so negative,” or “She can’t afford the cost.” This can be a false assumption. To avoid being unkind by leaving out someone, another person might pick up the tab, the group could divide the cost or find something less costly or even free. 

If you’re having a large gathering and money is limited, it might be wiser to have everyone pay their own way and not limit the number. Young people often do this. Or you might organize a potluck supper and invite everyone rather than just your besties since everyone is helping to share the costs.

Then, there are tougher scenarios. At certain times you simply can’t fit another person or couple around your dining room table or invite everyone you want to your grown child’s wedding or other special celebration. In such cases, you might set up a second table in the kitchen. At restaurants, the “chef’s” table seems the most desired spot. In the case of a wedding or other large gathering, be upfront and tell your friend whom you can’t include, “My kids are limiting the group to relatives and closest friends and there are no plus-ones allowed.” To be even kinder, add, “We love you, and we’ll have you over to meet the couple another time.” Better they hear it from you, and before the event.

Along with these types of decisions, we advocate not posting photos of gatherings that exclude people in any possible way on Facebook, Instagram and other social media. That’s akin to putting up a billboard and announcing over a loudspeaker: “Look at my life and what I’m doing! And you’re not part of it!” Instead, share announcements and pictures in private messages or emails.  

If possible, nobody should feel left out and now that it’s holiday time, practice inclusion and kindness. As the cliché goes: “We are made kind by being kind.”   

1 comment

  • Audrey Steuer

    Beautiful and words to live by every day!

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