This Is What It Means To Be Included

“This is what it means to be included.”

The mother’s words jumped out at me from the radio.


Two year old Tatum Bakker had never been able to swing on a playground swing set until they visited Brooklyn’s Playground on their way through Pocatello, Idaho. It’s a playground designed for children who are physically able and for those who are less able to play on together, named for the little girl who started it all, Brooklyn Fisher.

Kids with conditions like spina bifida usually can’t take part in playground games and activities, kids like seven year old Brooklyn and two year old Tatum, but in Pocatello they can. As Tatum’s mother explained:

And I put Tatum in a swing and kind of sat back and absorbed it all, and looked up and saw an older child, maybe 10 or 12 – a little girl – in a motorized wheelchair up on the pirate ship, surrounded by three or four friends her age who were able-bodied children, playing and laughing.

It’s a place where everyone can come together and play to their heart’s content.

It sounds like heaven to me. Literally.

But I’ll get to that in a moment, because this also sounds a little bit like my courtroom, and few people mistake my courtroom for heaven.

All Rise and Come to Order

Courtroom shows on TV start every trial with the same phrase: “All rise and come to order.”

In the early days of being a judge my court used to start with the same ceremony, my bailiff calling everyone to order as I walked through the door behind the bench and took my seat. Then he’d announce, “You may be seated.”

This works well. People who may be chatting while they wait for court to start can’t help but see that things are starting when everyone around them is standing up and quieting down. And for those who kept their seats and carried on their conversations, my bailiff would walk over right beside them and – using a voice loud enough to be heard in the next county – would say, “I said ALL RISE AND COME TO ORDER!” Several people have jumped nearly to the ceiling from their seated positions. I had a very effective bailiff.

Then one day I saw someone who didn’t rise and no matter how loudly my bailiff shouted in their ear they were not going to. The man was in a wheelchair.

He was sitting toward the front and as everyone rose around him in response to my bailiff’s call, he of course stayed seated. Then it struck me.

He was being excluded.

My bailiff, as an officer of the court, ordered everyone to stand and this man not only did not but could not comply. A ceremony designed to preserve the dignity of the court actually placed this man in a position where he was unable to participate along with everyone else.

I decided I would never put someone in that position again and instructed my bailiff that court would now being with the phrase “Remain seated and come to order.”

The dignity of the court – and of those who appear before it – is preserved.

Heaven for Everyone

God’s home is a place where everyone gets to participate and enjoy everything, living life to the full. (John 10:10.)

Jesus gave a taste of this as he ministered to the people around him:

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. (Matthew 15:29-31.)

Now we look forward to the fulfillment of his work of redemption and reconciliation and renewal when he brings us into the new creation:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1-5.)

And that, my friends, is what it means to be included.



This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to This Is What It Means To Be Included

  1. Alice says:

    Do you find that people are better or worse at being quiet when they aren’t being asked to get up?

  2. I am so glad to read this. I am so glad that you understood and took action. Thank you, Tim.

    Church should be the one place where we go out of our way to make everyone feel included. Sadly, too often it is not. Sometimes it’s even the opposite. But this post has really got me thinking. I guess I feel excluded from the church where I’m a member because I can’t manage the drive there and back (my husband doesn’t drive) and there’s only one person who has come to visit us. If I go instead to the nearest church, my children are ‘excluded’ because there are no other kids. My son is excluded at pretty much every church by virtue of his learning disabilities. Eight years ago we left a church where I was criticised because of his behaviour. At another church (which I loved) the people who went to Celebrate Recovery were viewed as ‘those’ people by some who did not go (the irony being that perhaps they would have been in an excellent position to benefit if they had). Why do we within the Church so often fail to be even a half-decent reflection of Christ? It just seems so sad.

    • Tim says:

      It is sad, Sandy. On celebrate recovery, one pastor I heard giving announcements would always praise the great work going on in it and encourage everyone to support it. That was a great way to make the ministry seem inclusive for the body, I thought.

  3. This is great, Tim. I love the idea of this inclusive playground, and I love how you honoured those who couldn’t stand simply by eliminating the requirement to do so. We have all these rules and traditions (stand for anthem, stand in court) etc. but they really aren’t absolutely necessary to what is happening, we’ve just made them that way. Breaking down barriers can be done in such simple ways.

  4. Sam Powell says:

    That’s beautiful, Tim, thank you. My wife has severe chronic illness, which means she lives in constant pain. Her good days are worse than my worst. Our church is great, and understands, but there are things that we always took for granted that no longer happen, like the playground in your example. Going out for a hamburger, coffee dates with friends, walking to the kitchen. Right now, she is cancelling lunch with her mother because she is in too much pain. It is eye-opening to see the world from a wheelchair for the first time. When we were healthy, we didn’t understand. God has ways of opening the eyes to the hurting in our midst.
    What a beautiful thought that God is in our midst, and the day will come when every tear will be dried and we will forever be with the Lord and with one another, perfectly, forever.
    Thank you!

  5. Sam Powell says:

    Reblogged this on My Only Comfort and commented:
    Beautiful thoughts from Tim Fall.

  6. Pingback: This Is What It Means To Be Included | My Only Comfort

  7. I was that person in a wheel chair since I broke both feet. Now I am a fortunate person with a walker and home physical therapy! It does change the perspective.

    In my three weeks in a nursing home I lived with dementia patients and others. Most of us were in wheel chairs in the dining room. This changed me. I saw very few residents had visitors. Now I am coming back there to chat with them.

Talk to me (or don't)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.