At some point in your life you feel like you don’t belong.
Transferring to a new school mid-term, starting your first day on a job, finding your way into a conversation at a cocktail party, siting at the Christmas table with your in-laws, learning another new language a few months into your trek through Asia, scrolling everyone’s cropped, filtered, and perfected social media posts.
Sometimes this lack of belonging comes from external circumstances. And sometimes it’s just an inside job. No matter where it begins, that sense that you don’t belong is part of the human experience. It can be fleeting, or last a life time.
This winter, I headed up to Washington to start renovations on our new house, a week before my husband was to join me. Before I left, my friend Tara sent me this song; Home by Phillip Phillips (why someone with the last name Phillip names there son Phillip is a whole other conversation we should have some day). The song was perfect.
Even though I’d spent only a few days there before buying a house, this little town felt like home to me. Before I even arrived I hired a contractor who treated me like a daughter, looking out for my best interests, investigating ways to save me money, shopping for things I wouldn’t know how to find. My painter Ben took such good care that I felt myself relax from our first email exchange. Even the folks at Home Depot called me by name and Rick in the paint department gave me a Christmas card and home-made fudge. My neighbor Kathy told me who to call for water and recycling, taught me the history of my house and its owners, and brought me to my first town meeting. She also hemmed all my curtains and made me laugh. Sue and Clare who own the bed and breakfast down the street, treated me to the most delicious breakfasts, loving conversations and true kindness. Farmer Clark introduced me to his pigs and walked me through his renovated barn with pride.
I can’t remember a time I’d been so immediately embraced, and yet..
On December 19th, during the darkest and coldest time of the year, I was alone in a strange house with furnace problems and a long night ahead of me. Back in LA my husband and friends were at Nancy and Brain’s annual Christmas party. They’d be chatting and laughing in their fancy clothes, softly lit by dozens of twinkling candles, drinking fabulous cocktails and eating delicious food. I wanted to be there. I didn’t belong here. Even though everything up till that moment had felt so right, suddenly it all felt so wrong. When the sun rose all was well again. But the memory of that black hole in my solar plexus is strong.
I’ve learned that you’ll never know what’s going on in the lives of most people you come across, and everyone’s going through something.
Someone you’ll come across today feels like they don’t belong. You can’t change all the circumstances in their life, but you can make a difference in the moment:
- Give up a seat. Hold a door open.
- Let someone cut in front of you.
- Shake hands. Hug. Wave from across the street.
- Smile. Make eye contact. Say thank you.
- Invite her – to join your table, come to your party, have a say at the meeting.
- Make her favorite dish.
- Learn some words in his language.
- Protect them. Defend their rights.
What has made you feel like you belong? What will you do today to make others feel they belong? I’d love to hear your ideas and experience in the comment section.
Right now there are people who’ve lived their whole lives in your neighborhood and suddenly feel like they don’t belong. People who use to love coming to this country, (including Canadian school children), now feel unsafe to do so.
As our current administration tries to normalize hate and bigotry you can choose to be force of love. Above are some ideas of what you can do individually. And this link shows what a small town is doing collectively, as a response to an incident that happened in a school.
If we want to be open-minded, civil and loving, we have to be conscious.
Good and evil both start small … and grow.
Whether you agree with me or not. Love or hate what I’m saying and doing. YOU BELONG HERE.