Welcoming newcomers – my story

Welcoming newcomers – my story

I have been a League member since I was eighteen years old. As an adult, I have moved around the country. One of the first things I do in each new community – shortly after registering to vote – is to join the local League.

In 1990, we moved to the Atlanta suburbs. I joined the local League, and marked my calendar for the first meeting in my area – a meeting on public school education. My children were at that time four and nine years old – so education was of particular interest to me.

I was welcomed to the meeting, and listened carefully to the discussion. I was the only person present with children in the local public schools. At one point during the discussion, one member said that she thought that yes, we needed to support the public schools because “our help need to have some place to send their children.” The conversation went on from there. No one rebutted this remark, and, even afterward, no one said anything to me about this – that this was just one person speaking, or that I should excuse the remark. My impression was that either everyone agreed with the speaker, or that they didn’t recognize how this comment could strike someone new to their community.

I left that meeting, and, while I did maintain my League membership, I never attended another League meeting during my time in Atlanta. If I had not been a longtime League member, I would have dropped my membership entirely.

Be very aware of your language and its potential effect on others in the discussion. Newcomers may not be able to tell what is said in jest, or which of the participants we generally discount.