I have always felt like I belonged to a family. I have always felt like I belonged to a Church family. I have always felt like I belonged to a friend group. I have always felt like I belonged in a multitude of affinity groups. With that said, there have been a few occasions when it was clear that I did not belong to a group or community, and I felt excluded.
Recently I read a phenomenal article by a friend talking about the challenges of not belonging. They articulated from their earliest memories how they felt excluded in their family, in their community, and with a number of groups and organizations – including the Church.
I am a white, straight male. My friend is a female of color. We grew up at the same time and very close geographically, and yet our experiences have been drastically different. Based on our experiences, our scripting, my world view is that I assume I am going to be included and her world view is that she assumes that she is going to be excluded.
My awareness of the contrast of my world view with a great number of other individuals’ world views started over 35 years ago. For the first time in my life I lived in a culture and context where my world view was not the majority. Living in a multicultural context where there were more people of color, more women, more LGBTQ people transformed me in terms of my awareness and life work of unpacking my assumptions based on my early life world view.
I believe deep in the DNA of every human being is the need to belong. When we feel that we belong it affirms that we are valued for who we uniquely are, and that we have something to contribute to the family, community, group. The classic question is, who is not at the table and why? What is the hard work, what are we willing to give up or change, so that all truly feel they belong . . . that they are valued?