For Those Who Don’t Belong

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I had two hours of time to myself while the nurse watched my daughter. I decided to spend that time attending a local group for moms at the church down the street. I was a newly-minted mom, so it seemed like a good idea to get to know other women at a similar stage in life.

I arrived, signed in and received my name tag, as well as a number for an assigned table. I sat down, smiled at others at the table, made introductions and settled in for the speaker.

I do not remember much of what the speaker said, other than she was the author of a book that had the word “princess” in the title. She spoke about all the milestones kids reach: from those first words to walking, to learning to ride a bike. I remember that as she spoke, I did everything in my power to hold it together—to engage, participate, and show up.

After the speaker left the podium, we were directed to answer questions and share prayer requests at our tables. I listened, nodded at the appropriate time, and smiled as I listened to the women answer questions. I was incapable of participating until that golden moment where the table leader asked if there were any prayer requests. Then the tears gushed out of my eyes like a geyser and I unleashed all of the emotion I’d so bravely held in until that moment. I shared how I had a daughter who may not live to see another day.

The women prayed over me, called to check up on me the following week, and went on to be supportive of my family in the weeks and months to come when my infant daughter needed a kidney transplant.

Is it possible for you to feel accepted in certain places, but to not feel like you belong?

This is a question a friend posed a couple weeks ago on social media when I asked about what it means to feel a sense of belonging. When he asked this question, this memory of attending this Mom Group came to mind.

Could it be that this is a feeling common to those who reside in the margins? Are there places where someone can feel accepted, perhaps because compassion is offered and empathy is freely given, and yet still not feel a sense of belonging?

I recently read about a study done by social psychologists at Stanford University called “Belonging Intervention.”[1] The study explored the universal desire of each and every human being to belong.

They found that one way people find a sense of belonging is by believing we are not alone.

How do we determine that we are not alone?

Storytelling.

We can break the cycle of loneliness and the sense that we do not belong when we take the time to share our stories and listen—genuinely listen—to the stories of others.

Although the Mom Group did a phenomenal job of meeting some tangible needs of my family and covering me in prayer, no one wanted to hear my story. No one was willing to sit and be uncomfortable with me as I shared the terror I felt as a new mother to a child that had a 50/50 chance of living daily for the first four years of her life.

No one asked me questions about how I was doing, or how my marriage was doing (crappy, to be honest), nor did any conversations transpire in which, perhaps, I could have learned that there were other women who also had children with similar stories in some way, shape, or form.

We need space to share our stories and we need people who can make space for others to share their stories. This is how we weave the threads of Belonging.

What would it look like if we made space for another Beloved’s story?

What would it look like if, instead of giving advice or even just offering to pray when someone says they do not feel like they belong,
we offered to hold space—a safe and trustworthy space—for them to share their story in their own time which may or may not ever come?

I do not have the answers.
In fact, I have less and less of them as I grow older.

I do want to continue to be vulnerable and share my own story just in case it might help assuage that sense of loneliness in another.

I want to be someone who holds space for those who do not feel like they belong.

I want to be someone who holds space for other’s stories.

 

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Carrie Kuba
I am a writer, a mother of a medically fragile kiddo and a Habesha, a wife to a Czech Renaissance man, an activist, an empath, a friend. I am also the content and copy editor at Ready Publication. When I am not writing for other publications, you can find a piece of my heart at carriekuba.com.
Carrie Kuba

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