I was not prepared for the crash course on diversity and inclusion I received upon arriving on campus.

Mount St. Joseph News

In the fall of 2003, I was driving through my little hometown of Felicity, Ohio.  It would be a brief drive through the village while continuing toward the Ohio River to US 52 West, on my way to my new home; a dormitory on the campus of the College of Mount St. Joseph (as it was called then) that I would share with a roommate coming from Columbus whom I had never met.

It was a journey I took alone, as no one joined me from my hometown. I might as well have been boarding a plane to an entirely different country with a different culture and different language.

Felicity is one of those little rural villages about which country music singers write songs that top the charts.  It is, if you will, “God’s Country,” “My Town” and “Small Town, USA”.  Everybody either knows everybody or knows about everybody.

Knowing everybody was not hard. Not only because the village is so small, but because most people act, think, vote and believe the same.  In a word, it was comfortable.

Going from a comfortable home where I knew everyone, to meeting and coexisting with people of various beliefs, cultures and backgrounds would be a shell-shock to this small-town 19-year-old kid.

But as I reflect on those four years, I realize in hindsight that the Mount’s commitment to inclusion played a huge role not only in my academic success, but in my developed ability to find the good in all people, especially people who look, think, act and believe differently.

Looking back at my time at the Mount, I realize now more than ever that inclusion is not uniformity of belief. Rather, it is a commitment to welcome different beliefs, perspectives and cultures into the community. 

Inclusion is acceptance simply because we all share the common truth that we were fearfully and wonderfully made.

As we head into the summer, the latest November presidential race is on the horizon.  Harsh rhetoric, polarization and tribal thinking will inundate the media and surely cause many to forego the art of reflective listening and inclusion that are staples of our American melting pot of ideas.

As I now lead a church in my hometown of Felicity, I place a high value on making sure people are included, no matter how differently we see the world. 

We talk a lot about love in church.  However, we talk not about a love born of conformity, but a love reflective of our Creator, whose love is marked with sacrifice for all people regardless of our differences.

While I may not look forward to the divisions that will naturally come this fall, I do look forward to the opportunity to bring people together under our shared experience of being loved undeservedly--a love that creates bridges with people from all walks of life.  A love that is inclusive.

As I write this and look out at those fields just now being prepped for farming and go out into the community I love, I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to attend the Mount, to get uncomfortable, and to adopt the beauty of diversity and inclusion.

Maupin earned his Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies with a minor in history from Mount Saint Joseph University and served as Editor of Dateline from 2006-2007.  He serves as the Worship & Administration Minister at Felicity Christian Church in Felicity, Ohio.  He is married to Nikki Maupin (née Bertsch), MSJ ‘09, has three wonderful kids and resides in Amelia, Ohio.