Belonging

Recently while cleaning out my office, I stumbled across my high school yearbook.

Our high school was very “clique-ish.” I was not one of the cool kids. 

In middle school, kids were just kids. By the time we reached high school, a rigid caste system splintered us into factions. A few of my good buddies ended up in the popular group. We didn’t hang out after that. 

Popular girls were in a category all their own. I never spoke to them.

Paging through the yearbook, social lines of demarcation were no longer visible. The cool kids didn’t look any different than all the rest. “Looks” didn’t reveal the future movie star, congressman, business executive, or pedophile. 

At the time, I would have sworn “looks” were everything.

Life is strange. In the blink of an eye, snobby cheerleaders become friendly moms. My favorite example of “a change in status” occurred at our twenty-fifth reunion. A woman of uncommon beauty approached a group of us. She could see I didn’t recognize her and called me out. Embarrassed, I confessed. When she told us her name, I was stunned. She was the unattractive girl who was shunned because of her looks! I’m pretty sure if you looked up “poetic justice” in the dictionary, her picture would be displayed.

Everyone wants to belong, especially in their teenage years. Belonging drives insecurity to the shadows. It draws attention to similarities instead of differences. When we belong, we can be who we are.

It would be good if everyone belonged! 

Why don’t we?

That’s hard to say. Ego certainly plays a role! Excluding others makes us feel exclusive. Everyone wants to feel important, so we invent ways to be exclusive. 

When we don’t belong, it feels like something that is done to us. That feeling is often justified!

Most of us have been excluded at one time or another in our lives. When the company I worked for was acquired by another, I found myself demoted to the “underclass.” My dad told me to “suck it up” and quoted scriptures; “And there came a Pharoah who knew not Joseph.” I certainly wasn’t the “loan ranger” in the exclusion game. 

My dad was right. It turned out to be a valuable experience! Social demotion offered a small glimpse of what it must be like to be in an “excluded” class of society. When “in,” we are “in!” When not, we are invisible, or worse!

I fully appreciate that I am not qualified to opine on exclusion. Still, the small taste I got provided lasting empathy for those who are qualified to speak. 

It’s good to belong.  

We should do what we can to extend this privilege.

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Follow me at http://tim-coats.com

4 Replies to “Belonging”

  1. Of all the classes they teach in high school a class along this subject line would be most valuable. I remember in high school I went on a 2 week church work camp. While there I made good friends with a girl I considered in a class above me. We had a chance to have a heart to heart asking if when back at school would she accept me in her group if she saw me walking down the hall. I learned that she also saw me in another class of top athletes. She said she could never obtain that status. We both saw each other in a different light. Though our paths did not cross on returning we both understood each other much better.

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