April 17th, 2015
The Road to Belonging
Here at Extend-A-Family, we have been exploring belonging. We hold a curiosity about it and wonder, “How do you know if you belong?” If we consider Maslow’s Hierarchy and how it shows belonging as something to be addressed after safety and security but before self-esteem, we begin to appreciate that belonging is something quite integral to the human condition. If it’s so important, it seems to me like it should be something that we attend to. In fact, thinking about the work world I am so in love with, I begin to appreciate that no where on a list of needs is ‘inclusion’ or ‘be present within’. No, rather, there is an expectation that one belongs.
I titled this piece ‘The Road to Belonging’ because I am really interested in how we get ‘there’. If we expect, like all good road trips, there will be detours, bumps in the road, and a few flat tires, so we should expect the same of our journey to belonging. Here in our world at Extend-A-Family, this journey included stops at Integrationtown — getting people we support and journey with physically into their communities (be they neighbourhoods, schools, church groups, etc.). In this little leg of the journey, it was about helping the person change and adapt so they could join. Another stop was Inclusionville, where locals made the changes, to themselves and the physical landscape, to promote inclusion of all persons. We have in the past few years reached Belongingopolis, a vibrant hub, that searches for ways for people to not simply be ‘in’ but ‘of” the community. In this bustling landscape, reciprocity, hospitality and giving of gifts ensures that people develop relationships and places of welcome based on an acknowledgement that none of us are exempt from challenges. All of us are holders of unique gifts and talents. It is time to celebrate.
I share this picture as one of the places where I feel totally welcome and have a deep sense of belonging. How do I know I belong? People greet me by name. They notice when I am not there. I have varying levels of contribution for the things we do together – sometimes I help plan, other times I help run, and other times I simply arrive and enjoy. And so too, all the other people who call this place theirs. Based on their interests and skills/gifts in any given instance, they help organize, plan, run, participate in, and encourage others. We rob the group of its complexity and depth when we don’t allow for people to shift in and out of different roles. Together, we are better.