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Today I attended a service on welcoming and inclusive behavior at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon. This group has dedicated itself to providing a place for people expelled by general society for their alternate life styles. It seeks to provide a place for these outcasts to find welcoming people. As several individuals spoke to the issues, it became apparent to me that there was a commonality with my blog posts of the last two weeks on the subject of contentment. In those posts there are numerous comparisons of contentment and happiness, implying that happiness is a transitional state on the road to contentment.

There is a similar parallel between welcoming and happy in that they are both transitional conditions on the way to something more sought after. The terms inclusive and contented refer to the states being sought after and they are of similar quality, but are more permanent compared to the temporary states of welcoming and happy. After hearing this service and discussing it for a while with some folks afterwards, it became apparent to me that welcoming is rather like a doormat at the front door; it is something you pass over in a few seconds. It is in the inclusiveness of being inside, of being past the welcome mat and the verbal expressions of welcome, that one even has the opportunity to become included in the group. Welcome in this sense means something you want to get past as quickly as possible. It is a formality. It is a set of memorized expressions stated at the passage from outside to inside, whereas being included means being past the welcome ceremonies and on to the actual participation in the group. In this refined usage of the word, being welcome means you are still on the outside but are being permitted to wander around within the premises. The word happy is similar in that it means one is on the road to contentment. Inclusion and contentment are the end goals of welcome and happiness.

But both of these inner states, inclusion and contentment, mean the person is no longer an object, but an active participant in the activities of the new world. Until the individual is doing something which is recognized as promoting some aspect of the well being of the whole group, they are not part of the group, they are visitors. That state may exist for a long time, because attending a group for a long time, but never participating in promoting the activities forever leaves the person as a visitor. To be included in a group means to be purposefully doing something for the group. To be contented means to be doing things clearly interactive with the whole situation. When people recognize these things and can see these relationships, they can promote the rapid incorporation of people and themselves into the group. Give all of the people of a group, including new people at the welcome mat, something special to do — for the group.

A sun-halo over Bend, Oregon as we depart the Unitarian Universalist service.

As we left the building there was a beautiful halo around the sun. Someone said to me, in a joking tone, Look! It’s a sign from heaven. To which someone next to him said, in a profundo tone, Yes, it is a sign from the heavens. There are ice crystals high in the sky. We all looked at the sky and smiled with inclusive contentment.

Unitarians look at sun-halos and love them for what they are.