She Treated Me Like I Belonged


By Daphne Johnson | Twitter: @daphnetypes

I stood there with a plate of Filipino food in hand as my grandma spoke to me in Ilocano, a language of the Philippines. We were at my aunt’s birthday party and all around me I heard the buzz of Ilocano words. I had no idea what any of the words meant. My grandma knew I didn’t understand, but kept speaking to me anyway. She always would. She finished talking and I just smiled at her, secretly longing I could understand what she’d said.

Years later she passed away. The same family who surrounded me during the one-sided conversations with my grandma, was surrounding me at her funeral. Family and friends gave testimonials of her life, but once again I found myself in an all-too familiar situation. Listening to Ilocano words, I ached to understand, but couldn’t.

To me, my own grandma was comparable to a stranger and I didn’t realize this until we started placing roses on her casket. I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t belong there.

I am only half Filipino. My other side is white. While I love being a mix of two races, I noticed it has kept me from feeling like I fully belong to either side; to either family. What makes it more complicated, is that I look Mexican.

The feeling of belonging is a sweet sentiment and can change your whole world. When you feel like you belong to someone or something, it gives you a sense of purpose and comfort. Belonging provides a sturdy platform to plant your feet and know you are where you’re meant to be.

When you belong, you feel safe. You feel needed. You feel supported. There’s a safe haven for your identity. You are affirmed in who you are and empowered to face your fears.

Without belonging to something, you are not as strong. You become the “lone wolf;” a wolf without a pack.

At least, that’s what I became.

I belonged to everyone and no one all at the same time. Throughout high school and college, I had friend groups of all types. I had Christian friends, sorority friends, church friends, and other random friends. I belonged to the group texts and invitation lists, but I never fully let myself feel like I belonged to a group.

I even loved the family of believers who attended my church, but still felt I didn’t belong. I was so used to half belonging to either side of my family, it translated into how I invested in the groups around me. I kept everyone at arm’s length, away from my heart, because I thought if I fully let myself be known, they might think I don’t actually belong.

It was a natural thought process I wasn’t aware of.

Then something in my heart changed. At some point during my last years of college, I realized I have belonged to someone this whole time. It doesn’t matter what my skin color is, where I am, what language I know, or what my personality is like. I have—and always will—belong to the family of God.

I imagine when my grandma looked at me, she didn’t see a half white, half Filipino, Mexican looking girl. She saw her granddaughter whom she loved dearly simply because she was family. It didn’t matter to her that I didn’t understand what she was saying. What mattered was, I belonged to her family. So, she treated me like I belonged.

I wish I could have understood how I belonged during our one-sided conversations. Instead of smiling uncomfortably and staying silent, I might have responded back starting my own one-sided conversation in English. I would have reflected a feeling a belonging rather than a feeling of unsteadiness.

She may be in heaven now, but she taught me a valuable lesson with her time here on Earth. She has taught me about God’s love for his family.

I may not always understand God, but I understand God’s love for me through his son, Jesus. His love is unconditional. He has a family and longs for his children to be a part of it through Jesus. I understand now.

I am loved. I have a purpose. I have a family.

I belong.


About Daphne:

Daphne Johnson is a full-time Recreation Therapist in San Diego, CA. She spends most of her time outside and loves seeking God through learning about apologetics and culture. To read more of and support her writing you can visit her website at