What does it mean to belong? Where is it that you belong? Most of us have a sense of what it feels like to belong and actually belong in many places or with many different people. Obvious places that come to mind could be with our families, groups of friends, maybe with our co-workers, and hopefully our churches. It certainly is comforting to know you belong.
What does it mean or how does it feel to NOT belong? Where do you feel like you don’t belong? Maybe you went to a new church and nobody introduced themselves. Or when you decided to go out of your comfort zone and tried out a new group. You arrive, people are chatting with each other and you just want to mold yourself into the wall.
Have you ever been asked to help out in an event or group and although you say yes, you know that there is no way you will ‘belong’ with those who are in attendance? My ministry is working at a Breakfast Program in my city. I am a host, I welcome people in and chat with our guests. I have been doing this since early 2020. I really didn’t expect to fit in with our guests. Not that I felt superior to any of them but how could I possibly relate to people who deal with things like drug addictions or major mental health issues; things that I have never had to deal with before. Like I have said more than once, God saw something in me that I never would have expected. It took some time, but I did fit in and felt a sense of belonging. Not just because I am needed to tend to the door, but because I truly am part of the group of people who come in every day, and I am not the only host who feels this way.
One guest tells me a joke, never a good one and he knows it, but we both laugh. Some of the guests ask me how I am doing, comment on what I might be wearing, and on occasion, I receive a flower. Other guests just want to chat. Sometimes I get yelled at or cursed at, but even close friends and family members can do that and you still belong.
Recently I have noticed that the guest emotions are more extreme and the drug use more pronounced. The yelling and anger has increased. I had been on the schedule more than usual for that week and by midweek I was not a happy camper and it began to show, so I no longer felt like I belonged and wondered if it was time to walk away. After a lot of thought I realized I had forgotten my ‘rule’. My rule was to always remember that tomorrow is another day and we all can have a bad one. How can I arrive in the morning with thoughts from yesterday, having an attitude, no smile, and possibly a harsher tone and expect those around me to be friendly to me? I am certainly not being a good host if my mood interferes with our guests sense of belonging.
So my new rule and one I have to keep reminding myself when I am having a bad day is this: “my smile and my good attitude can go a long way to make others feel like they belong”, not just at the breakfast program but in all situations.” Easy enough to remember, sometimes hard to put into practice.