After writing yesterday about the signature on the bottom of my foot (now just one small line), I have been thinking more and more about the idea of belonging.
I said that having the name there reminded me of Toy Story and Andy's signature on the bottom of Woody's foot. It was a sign that Woody belonged to Andy. While I heistated to say that I "belong" to the young man who signed my foot, if I really think about it, I have to admit that I do belong to him. He also belongs to me, even if I haven't written my name anywhere on him. When I say that, I don't mean we belong to each other in any weird or possessive way. Rather it is a mutual care for each other.
Isn't that what we all seek? Don't we want someone to care for and who cares for us? Isn't that what belonging is really about?
Certainly there are ways in which the idea of belonging is corrupted. Human trafficking is the first way that comes to mind. Anytime someone dominates others and diminishes their being, belonging is violated and corrupted.
Belonging, in its truest and best sense is about empowerment. I belong to my church community because I know that I am welcome there. As with the school community I leave behind, I know that I will be a part of my church community even when I am far away. That is true belonging. We are bound together even when we are not together.
I know that my church community wants me to be my best self and I want the same for every person there. We challenge each other to live to high ideals, and we strive to be supportive, patient, and understanding as we walk the paths we are called to walk. Our coming together each week to worship helps us to be true to ourselves, to our call, to our God. Our worship reminds us that we belong to each other. I am thankful that it also reminds us that we belong to the poor and the oppressed, the rich and the oppressors. They also belong to us. I find these very difficult notions to live by sometimes, but I try, failing often, to live as if I belong to each person I meet and they belong to me.
In my classroom or in my encounters elsewhere, my heart always aches for those who don't feel like they belong anywhere, to anyone. Sometimes it is that they have been excluded by others, they haven't found their path yet or have lost their way; sometimes it is that they simply don't recognize that they belong right where they are. There are cetainly times when I have felt that I don't belong. Now just happens to be a time when I am ever aware of my belonging. I do belong to the young man whose name was on my foot. I belong to the people I will come to know in India and Palestine. They also belong to me. I hope that as you come to know them here, you will also find a sense of mutual belonging with them.