May 2012: Belonging
Not so long ago I had the pleasure of watching the movie Rango. And was struck by the need for a sense of community in order to thrive.
It used to be that families (and large extended families) provided that place of purpose, of belonging, where you fit in. In our current Western culture, families have become fragmented rather than cohesive. Now our sense of community tends to come from circles of friends, church, sports teams, hobby groups, work associations. While sometimes we are fortunate and truly do have a sense of community–of belonging–in these places, often times they are simply activities that fill up our days and weeks—not necessarily ourselves.
In the movie, the character Rango doesn’t ‘come into his own’ until he saves the day for the community of which he has become a part. Come to think of it, the plot very much follows the ‘hero’s quest’ formula. The hero has a personal struggle to overcome to see what he is really made of. Only then can a difference be made for the whole group as well as the individuals.
With my own learning experience regarding ‘being there,’ this sense of community has come back to roost in my mind a few times. Those of us who have been hurt during our formative years sometimes have a harder time engaging with other people. We have come to understand in the core of our being that this is just not safe. Interacting with people invariably leads to pain of some sort. How sad that this is true for so many.
I have recently embarked on a journey of my own to seek out community—a place of belonging. While there are many factors at play—including my introverted personality—it has been a stretching (and dare I say it, healing) experience for me. It has also been agonizing. Yes, pain has also been a part of this journey. Sometimes I wonder how things would be different if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone of introversion and isolation a time or two. Would I feel safer? Less exposed? Less pain? Likely yes to all of those. But I also would not have known the beauty of others ‘being there’ for me. Comforting me in my sorrow. Sharing in my confusion. Commiserating with my suffering.
I have a ways to go yet. Some days are definitely more difficult than others. Some are more isolating than others. Will I morph into an extrovert who wants to be around people all the time? Hardly. I still need my solitude to recharge and regroup. However, I am learning that sometimes it is worth taking risks. Usually an agonizing decision process to take the risk, but in the end, no critical harm has befallen me so far. Some mental anguish maybe, but that is usually of my own doing, my own thought processes messing with me.
Have I found my community—my place of belonging? No yet. But as I search—and keep myself open to engaging with other people—I have hope that maybe one day I will. In the meantime, I have cultivated some amazing friendships and gotten to know people better I otherwise would have let pass by. And that would be a crying shame. There are wonderful people out there. Just takes a bit of savvy as well as openness to find them.
May your heart and mind be open to connections that might otherwise be missed, expanding your sense of belonging, so that you can truly flourish.