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Prochnow: Exclusions need not apply

My first distinct memory of discrimination happened in grade school – first grade, to be exact.

 Although my teacher taught me a lot that year, the most significant lesson I learned was from my mom.


 Unlike today, when I grew up, birthday party invitations were routinely handed out at school. It was a matter of practicality and convenience. Unfortunately, this childhood ritual sometimes occurred without concern for who was or more specifically, who wasn’t, on the guest list.


 In first grade, I was invited to a birthday party for another girl I didn’t know very well. I was excited and couldn’t wait to tell my mom. But when I did, she immediately said I couldn’t go to the party. Devastated, I asked why. My mom said because every girl in your class was invited except one.


 The next thing I remember is my mom making a phone call. I listened as my mom told birthday girl’s parents that I would not be attending the party, but rather I would be spending that afternoon with the one girl in our class who didn’t get invited. My mom made her point.


 Even at that early age, I knew the other little girl didn’t have as much as I did. She came to school in the same worn-out, dirty clothes almost every day. Her hair wasn’t always combed or in perfect braids with matching barrettes like mine. And when I left school with my mom or grandma, she was often alone, still waiting to be picked up.


 All of this pointed to her being different than me, but it didn’t matter. I liked her. She liked to do the same things I liked to do. And thanks to my mom, we had a great afternoon together, and she became my friend.


 I’ve never asked how my mom knew the other little girl wasn’t invited to the party. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is the lesson she taught me: Exclusions need not apply. Value every person for who they are. And take a stand against discrimination. Sometimes it’s as simple as making a phone call and having a playdate.