October 15th, 2015
FamilyHome – Belonging: In Action
By: Terral McBay
Today the word belonging has stepped into the spotlight. A few years ago, inclusion was the buzzword of the day, and rightly so as it was, and continues to be, a driving force helping to push boundaries, create opportunities and strive for dignity. Today however, belonging seems to be the focus of much of the work we do. Words are beautiful. When you look into their deeper meanings and see how they can relate to real life, words are fascinating.
When we consider the definition of belonging, it talks of possession and of close or intimate relationships. Belonging is something that everyone needs in some way. Everyone wants to be wanted. Everyone wants to be able to say “I’m yours” whether it’s to a parent, family member, friend or a spouse or partner. Possession, when related to belonging, isn’t a restrictive sentiment where we “have to” be connected to another person, but in fact is more aligned with the idea that we “get to” belong to another person, group or community. When looking at close or intimate relationships, I’m sure we can all remember a time when this was not present in our own lives. If you think of your first day of school, the first day at a new job, the first day of camp or playing on a sports team, one of the first thoughts we experience are, “who will I play with,” “who can I talk to,” or “will anyone want to be my friend?” The period of time when any of these questions are unknown is daunting. Imagine for some people, this period of time never ends and is their everyday life of not feeling they belong.
I’ve heard some statements describing belonging saying “Belonging is being invited to the party;” or “Belonging is being missed when you’re not there.” To both of those statements, I agree 100%. I would like to add a statement of my own. Belonging isn’t just being invited to the party; sometimes belonging is hosting the party at your place and welcoming people into your life. Belonging is both receiving and giving. You need to be invited to belong to others, and you need to invite others to belong to you.
Sometimes we talk a lot about words and focus a lot on these words from an academic, theoretical or intellectual perspective which is often an enriching exercise as we get to learn new ideas and challenge ourselves in seeing new perspectives. While doing this, we need to also see what real life looks like. From an analytical perspective, belonging is a wonderful sentiment; but what does it actually look like in real life? Taking it further, what does belonging look like for people who have a developmental disability? Here are some real life examples of belonging from people who live with this label as a part of who they are.
Belonging is hosting family and friends for a holiday meal at your home.
Belonging is going to a Rangers game with your boyfriend.
Belonging is going to the mall to meet up with friends on the weekend.
Belonging is playing your djembe in a number of different bands.
Belonging is being asked by your employer to work more shifts at your job.
Belonging is having people hear your idea for a community ball hockey tournament and being instrumental in pulling off a great event 2 years in a row.
Belonging is laughing with the toddler you live with and having them smile when you come home.
Belonging is completing a triathlon and having your family cheer you on.
Belonging is making someone smile.
Belonging is receiving gifts on your birthday.
Belonging is having someone to give a gift to on their birthday.
Belonging is being a friend not only because you need someone, but because someone needs you.
Belonging is having your phone ring because someone wants to hang out with you.
Belonging is a central need in everyone’s life. Who do you belong to? More importantly, are there people in your life who need to belong? If so, pick up the phone because you may never know the joy someone will feel when handed the phone and hearing the words “it’s for you.”