Throughout life, we invest considerable time and effort to belong. From little on, the need to belong becomes an essential ingredient of our personality and affects the way we think, behave, and interact with others. Belonging brings comfort and connection, belonging serves to identify and validate so much of whom and what we are. As we mature, the degree of “belong” is consciously sought, controlled, managed, and independently selected and decided. At various stages of our life, we employ symbols and signs noting our belong status: certificates, jewelry, attire, titles, words, identification labels--the litany is quite extensive. We celebrate special occasions when belonging is bestowed: birthdays, anniversaries, Baptism, Confirmation, engagement, marriage, graduation, induction, promotion, elections and a myriad of award ceremonies. To emphasize the importance of such events sacred words are read from Holy Books, psalms and hymns are sung, and age-old traditions and protocol are followed. Belonging gives strength, faith, courage, and hope to the human spirit.
As a child, we take belonging for granted. Initially, we have no say in the matter. One day, we become aware that we are part of a family. Each day we spend the majority of time interacting with each other inside familiar surroundings firming up rank, position, status, and prominence. As we become older, the “belonging” process takes on added importance and we deliberately develop strategies, methods, and thought processes necessary to maintain our emotional connection to whatever we have attached our feelings. We make special effort, expend copious energy, and elevate our interest in order to meet the level or degree of belonging depending on circumstance, life-stage, or purpose. With belonging, one must accept responsibility, duty, obligation, commitment, and a sundry of ancillary liability: emotional, social, and personal. But regardless of the challenges faced, the payoff that belonging brings to the individual is well worth the price paid.
Over a lifetime, think about the expenditure of time, energy and effort one spends to belong: clubs, organizations, teams, groups, cliques, fraternities, sororities, unions, guilds, etc. In pairs, small groups, or large denominations we strive to make our involvement noticed and elevate our status of worth, importance and impact. Belonging gives us an opportunity to demonstrate a variety of skill, ability, and talent. A chance to showcase our competence, leadership, camaraderie, intelligence and experience. Depending upon the situation, one can instill, inspire, model and mentor others and expand the cohesive bond and reward of belonging. We move easily from one group to another: formal or informal, social or business, religious or secular, educational or recreational, public or private. Belonging can be gender specific or mixed, geriatric or youthful, adolescent or adult. Humans know how to effectively multi-task belonging. Our need to belong may focus on a single person or a group. Gratification may take the form of celebrity, recognition or acknowledgement whenever one is in the limelight. Sanction of one’s belonging may be conveyed privately from eyes of loved ones closest to the heart. The value to our spirit is the knowing we matter we’re appreciated, needed, cherished and loved. Belonging gives one purpose, a reason to get up in the morning. Inwardly our spirit soars; outwardly we smile proudly. We are not alone—we belong! What an incredible feeling! The connection knowing one belongs may be a gentle touch, a knowing look, a warm embrace or casually held hands. Verification of one’s belonging may be written on certificates, licenses, deeds, or notebook paper. The belonging may be handwritten on greeting cards or personal notes, phone calls, text messages, answering machines, emails, or delivered personally expressed with varying degrees of passion and persuasion. Regardless of delivery system, the end result is the same; one has been chosen to share in another’s life. Duration and longevity are first cousins of belonging. Whatever circumstances allow—belonging should be nurtured, appreciated and acknowledged. Just because a number of miles separate front doors, does not mean one cannot savor belonging. Feelings and thoughts of belonging nourish the spirit, fills the heart with gladness and makes music for the senses. Think back on all the days of your life. Remember the moments when you first realized you belonged: family, classmates, colleagues, coworkers, neighbors, and friends. Think about yesterday, today and tomorrow—savor the moments, treasure the memories, and open your heart to belongings yet to come.