Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, May 7, 2022 - The Art of Belonging

What does it mean to belong? Does it feel good? Safe? What does it mean to be a part of something? A circle of friends, a company, a club, a family? 

Relationship is the most important aspect of the human experience. Necessary for our survival, for our happiness, our safety. As a concept, relationships have many versions. Among them are romantic, platonic, family, various levels of friendship from acquaintance to besties, and even “friends with benefits.” But one thing is certain, each of them has the potential to instill a sense of belonging within us.   

Many know that I formerly ran a youth mentorship program called the Tribe. When I started mentoring kids after school I didn’t do it with the conscious thought to create belonging. If you had asked me if I thought belonging was important, of course I would have said yes. But it was not the underlying theme of reasoning behind the creation of it. At least, not consciously.

Over time, I began to see a pattern in the words the kids used to describe the Tribe to other people. I started to hear things like "family," and "everybody belongs.” It made me realize a few things about what it meant to belong to something that was happy to have you there. Something in which people were eager to both serve and help one another, as well as share in the goodness of our individual talents. 

Belonging is an art form. It’s an art because you have to do it on purpose. You have to do it with intent and investment. You have to put some of yourself into the act of belonging. You have to work to not only build trust with others, but have trust in others as well. We have to come to understand the types of pride and distrust that prevent relationship. We need to make a life practice of belonging. 

To where or whom do you belong? Think right now about where you belong in the world. You could think of it in terms of keys on your keychain. What doors are open for you? Where have you been authorized to enter? Where do you feel most welcome? Your family? Your job? Your neighborhood pub? Where does everybody know your name? These are the places to which you belong. Do you deliberately share that feeling with others? Do you seek out those who feel as though they belong nowhere and to no one?

Belonging is an art in that we must practice it, we must have a passion for it, we must know the value of it so that we can share it with purpose. And once we find belonging, what do we do with it? Once we have decided to become a part of a larger body, what do we do with that power? What might we do once we accept that we are, and always have been, part of a much larger whole?  

Let the wholeness overtake you. None of us can truly know what’s possible when we all of humanity works together, but we can imagine. We can choose to let the wholeness sink in and become its own thing. It’s own living, breathing, force of good in the world. It will be an act of deliberate love that shall transform all who partake of it.

I eventually figured out why I created the Tribe. It was for me. It was because I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere myself. I created a safe space in the very high school I myself had attended, where I myself had been bullied and harassed, in order to heal my own loneliness. In the process, it gave that same belonging, that I so desperately needed, to others. 

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