It was a beautiful example of inclusion.
On our recent trip to Nairobi, Nagib and I were at the Sarit Centre with Amaal. Amaal was asleep in her stroller, so we decided to take a much needed break and grab a coffee and cheesecake at The Spring Noshery, a chic and trendy cafe. Seated at another table — physically distanced — were 3 beautiful young Kenyan women, dressed up to the nines with the newest fashion – tall boots, mini skirts, thick eyelashes. They looked like “influencers”. I could not take my eyes off them as they were having an animated conversation about men and trends and fashion and life in general. There were also a handful of men, just chilling. The music was this mix of the latest tunes that got me up and dancing.
Then Amaal woke up. Everyone working at the restaurant started cooing at her, calling her, playing with her. She was lapping up the attention. And then one of the servers asked me what Amaal’s favourite song was and the first song that came to my mind was Sharon, Lois and Bram’s “Skinnamarink“. She did not know the song and asked me to spell it (try spelling skinnamarink in a clutch!) and found it on Spotify. Next thing I know, this music is blaring on the speakers to the chagrin of the influencers. I thanked the lady at the restaurant and told them they could stop the baby music, perhaps because I was a bit self-conscious. They said Amaal was also their customer and deserved to hear music she loved. Next, they played Baby Shark and then Old McDonald Had a Farm. Now even the influencers were half smiling, and I noticed that a couple of the men at the restaurant were tapping their feet in concert to the music. Finally, it was time for us to go and we thanked them profusely for making it so special for Amaal (and us!).
I teach about the importance of diversity and inclusion; that people need to feel a sense of belonging to bring their best selves forward. And this is true in a family or workplace or community. This spontaneous burst of inclusion for Amaal was a delightful reminder of how to make this happen when you are intentional about it. This is something that I have to make a conscious effort to do, particularly with my family. In my desire to get things done quickly (and I am a master at getting things done), I sometimes forget to take the time to bring everyone along and get their buy-in. I have learnt that the extra time I take to be inclusive, to listen to diverse perspectives and to create buy-in, pays of in the long run.
Amaal may not remember this cafe and what they did for her. But it was an indelible memory to me of what inclusion looks like and how amazing it felt to experience it. I will go back to this coffee shop, repeatedly, each time I am in Nairobi. They know what they are doing to create lifelong customers.