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I picked up “Scoot Over and Make Some Room” by Heather Avis with entirely selfish motives. I wanted someone who looked like me, and in my mind probably thought like me, to simplify this whole idea of racial reconciliation in words I could understand. I wanted a simple solution to all the pain and suffering. Although her book was not at all what I’d expected, it is a must-read for any family desiring to embrace diversity alongside their children.
Who is the author, Heather Avis?
In case you haven’t heard of her, Heather Avis is the mom of three beautiful, adopted children. The oldest and youngest have Down Syndrome and the middle child is Guatemalan and African American. Heather began sharing the secret beauty of Down Syndrome and adoption through her Instagram account.
That Instagram account quickly grew and opened doors for her first book, The Lucky Few, gatherings with mamas whose children have Down Syndrome and now has an organization called The Lucky Few. Heather is dedicated to shifting narratives and helping others find their voice and tell their own stories.
What is “Scoot Over and Make Some Room” About?
“Scoot Over and Make Some Room” challenges us to make space for the “others” in our lives and invite them in, instead of pushing them away out of fear.
Heather talks a lot about the trials of raising her children with Down Syndrome and advocating for them not only at school but in everyday life. Since doctors and culture categorize Down Syndrome as a tragedy instead of a gift, Heather spends her days challenging those around her to see the beauty her children bring to the world instead of trying to keep them separate or forcing them to blend in. She challenges the world to love not just her children, but everyone, just as they are.
I fell absolutely in love with her definition of what it means to be Pro-Life:
“Pro-life is being for all people, not just unborn babies. If we are going to stand for life, do we get to decide what kind of life we stand for? Pro-life is about shouting the worth of all lives- especially of those whose worth is still questioned.”
Amen sister. Amen.
What does “Scoot Over and Make Some Room” teach us about advocacy?
Heather encourages all of us to be advocates, regardless of where you feel you stand on the continuum of worth. She says “even if you need people to shout your worth, there is someone behind you who needs you to shout theirs.”
It is all of our jobs to shout the worth of all people.
That, in a nutshell, is what advocacy means, being a shouter of worth. For some of us, advocacy is a choice. For others, it is a requirement.
If you feel advocacy is optional, that in itself is a sign of your privilege.
There are people who have to advocate for themselves every time they walk out the door, just because of the color of their skin, the accent that peppers their speech or the abilities they hold.
If that battle isn’t your reality, that doesn’t mean you have permission to sit this one out. Your voice matters, All of our voices matter.
The more of us there are shouting the worth of all people, the more that someday the world will listen.
However, in order to be good advocates, we have to get to know the people we are advocating for. Heather boils that down into two steps:
Step 1: “Be willing to sit down next to the people you understand the least, who scare you the most.”
Step 2: ” Be a listener, a learner and a lover. “
What Did I Learn From “Scoot Over and Make Some Room”?
Lesson 1: Scooting over and making room is hard work.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I was drawn to this book because I thought she might simplify this hard work of embracing diversity and make racial reconciliation look a little less painful and ugly.
Instead, she honestly admitted that talking about racing and digging into the power skin color has in our culture is ugly and uncomfortable. There is no way around it.
The only thing we can do is just keep digging, keep learning, keep scooting over and making room for people who are different than we are so that we can learn from each other. There is no quick answer or an easy fix. This is hard, messy, life-long work.
Lesson 2: Race isn’t the only divider.
Now, this may have already been obvious to you, but for some reason, it wasn’t to me. I have been so focused on race, culture, and language being the dividers that keep us segregated. Not once did I consider differing abilities as a dividing factor.
As I listened to Heather talk about the struggles of raising kids with Down Syndrome, I began to see just how the systems our world has in place are even more stacked against kids with differing abilities. Although we are taught special classrooms are “normal” and necessary, they are often not the best option. Although it may be the easier option for the system it deprives students of valuable learning opportunities.
This book taught me that we are all worthwhile human beings, created equal in the eyes of our Creator. Yet, culture has taught us that it is easier to keep some people out. It is safer to keep some people out. However, that doesn’t mean it’s better.
Is “Scoot Over and Make Some Room” for you?
If you are a family committed to embracing diversity, yes.
If you have any interest in learning how to be a good advocate, yes.
If you want to learn more about diverse abilities, Down Syndrome or adoption, yes.
If you just want to learn how to be a better neighbor and steward of your “space”, yes.
Friends, we may be taking the harder route by choosing to embrace diversity with our families. However, I promise you, we are on the right path.
Our kids’ lives will be richer, fuller, and better because they are learning to see the beauty in all people from the beginning. They are learning to see the world with open eyes and open hearts. Keep digging, even when it’s hard, even when you want to sit it out, even when your heart feels too broken to keep going.
If you need a little inspiration, someone to echo the words of your heart, check out Heather’s book “Scoot Over and Make Some Room” and then bravely head out into the world and keep doing just that.