Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A place to belong.

There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community. Scott Peck

It was a simple, heartfelt email of thanks. I had given her company a tour of the homeless shelter where I work. She wrote to tell me of her personal connection to the shelter through her brother who had once been part of the organization several years ago. "I could never understand why he gave up his high profile, high paying job to go and work at a homeless shelter," she wrote. "I was angry. And embarrassed. I was sixteen," she added, as if age could explain the emotions surrounding her loss.

She went on to describe her brothers death several years later. "Before the service, the minister asked us to tell him something about Jason* that he could use to tell all of the people attending the service," she wrote. "I was angry. I instantly blurted out “Who is here??!!! It’s us!! Jason was a loner. No friends. There is nobody else here but us -- so we have no stories for you to share!!”. The minister just smiled at me and graciously asked us to follow him out to the church to be seated in the first pew."

"The room was full Louise. Standing room was taken. Wall to wall the place was packed. I looked out into a sea of faces – all there in Jason’s honor. It must have been every single client the shelter had that day!!! God bless each and every one of them."

She wrote further about the impact of the tour twenty years after her brother's death. Of feeling the community supporting her as it had once supported her brother. Of hearing the stories he had heard, of seeing the people in a place that her brother's eyes had held, a place where he fit in, exactly as he was. "He had found a community where he belonged. Thank you. I understand now."

Community. A place to belong. A longing to belong. A longing for belonging. A longing to be. To connect. To be part of something, someone other than just ourselves, wandering alone on this lonely planet.

A shelter is a microcosm of the macrocosm of our world. In the shelter, people search for belonging, longing for that place where they know they belong. To be. Connected. A part of. A community. A place to be.

In each of us there is that longing. To belong. That longing that drives us to search for a connection, meaning, understanding. It drives us beyond the reaches of our comfort zone. It pushes us into the recesses of our fears, cowering in the darkness of that place where we do not fit, yet cling to as we struggle to throw off our desire to move beyond whatever place we're in that feels so uncomfortable, so unbecoming, so disconnected.

Longing to belong, we search for a community. Of like minds. Kindred souls. Struggling spirits. Shared experiences. Common ground.

Longing to belong, we reach out. For help. For knowledge. For hope. For support. For connection.

We reach out and hope our hands do not come back empty. We reach out and fear our hands will come back full of what we do not need. We reach inside to discover what it is we really want. What it is we really need to feel like we fit in. Like we belong. Like we are part of a community. That place where we are accepted because there is where we belong. This is the community where we fit in. Find our fit. Find ourselves where ever we're at. Exactly the way we are with you being exactly the way you are.

Even in homelessness.

A community where to belong you must lose everything that belonged to you, everything that spoke of who you are, who you were before you lost everything to come to this community where everyone has nothing but what you share in this moment. Sometimes hope. Sometimes despair. Sometimes fear or anger or blame or shame. Sometimes a toke. A pull. A drag. A drink. A sandwich. A smile. A laugh. A slap. A poke. A hit. A blanket. A joke. A stroke. Of good luck. Good fortune. Nothing other than a pat on the back. A hug. A gentle touch. Nothing.

Community. A rhythm. A beat. A pulse. A flowing river connecting you to him and her and them and us to you and back again flowing ever onward. Ever forward. Ever over, into and under. Like water surrounding rocks. Wearing down rough spots, hard knocks, jagged edges.

Community. A place to belong. A place to come home to. To run from. To hide out. To hide in. To hide behind. To hide. A place. A thing. A song. A whispered word of hope. A shout of joy. An exclamation of fear. A never-ending story of who we are when we connect to the best. The worst. The most. The least. The only parts of our our selves where we stand alike. Beside. Together. United. In community. Communal. Common. Ground.

Community. A place. Connected. To everyone. Everyone is connected in community. No matter their circumstances. No matter their place. We are all connected.

Community. We are all connected. A part of a community of souls. Sometimes kindred. Sometimes apart. Sometimes on different sides. Of the street. Of the argument. The boardroom table. The common ground. Connected none the less. To the best. The worst. The courage. The strength. The fear. The hope. The belief. We are a community. A place to fit in. To find. Hope. Courage. Strength. Community.

"I get it," the woman wrote. "My brother was always troubled. Always torn. He fit in at your place. He found the community that accepted him and understood him. He found a place where he could be himself, for as long as he could bear being on this earth. I am grateful he found a place to belong."

Community. A place to live up to. To belong. To give into. To give up on. To give up. To give to. To give. A place to die for. A place to die. Never alone. Always surrounded by the ones you love. And the one's who love you just the way you are.

This is the second time I am participating in Blog Carnival. Today's word to write on is: Community. If you want to take part, or to read the amazing posts from fellow bloggers, please go here and immerse yourself in the wonder and the magic of being connected to an amazing community of thoughtful folk here in cyberland.


~*Michelle*~ said...

one word: amazing.

I love your style...this was a brilliant post.

M.L. Gallagher said...

one word: thank you -- okay two -- but it's really a phrase that means one thing: gratitude.

Thank you for dropping in!

Maureen said...

I am so glad you were able to participate with us today, Louise.

Too often we turn our eyes from the community of souls within our communities, because to not look at them renders them invisible. And what is not seen does not exist. How does it come to be that we think the homeless, the dispossessed, the poor, those with AIDS, those with need don't need community every bit as much as we do?

To have a sense of belonging. . . so powerful it is that it can be a catalyst for wanting life itself.

I very much like the lines ". . . In community. Communal. Common. Ground." Might we all meet on common ground, open our eyes and see. Welcome onto that ground those we have never seen before.

Thank you for your contribution.

S L M Moss said...

Hi Louise,
Thank you for your words. It is amazing how a seemingly small thing can change a life. I also decided to partake of the Blog Carnival - what an awesome idea!
Have a great day!!

Bernadette Pabon said...

I just learned a lot from your post. I am living wth my son and wife, and watching the two grandbabies. All I ask is to to feel that I belong there.

Belonging is to be loved.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say, Louise.

I'm extremely grateful that you posted this on the carnival. It is beautifully written and touched me deeply.

Thank you!

Maureen said...

This was on Ted Kooser's site, American Life in Poetry.
It's by Marie Sheppard WIlliams, who lives in Minneapolis.

I like it, and think you will, too.


I stood at a bus corner
one afternoon, waiting
for the #2. An old
guy stood waiting too.
I stared at him. He
caught my stare, grinned,
gap-toothed. Will you
sign my coat? he said.
Held out a pen. He wore
a dirty canvas coat that
had signatures all over
it, hundreds, maybe
I’m trying
to get everybody, he
I signed. On a
little space on a pocket.
Sometimes I remember:
I am one of everybody.

katdish said...

Everyone longs for community - a place to belong. I think back to high school, everyone trying to fit in and belong. It's part of our make up. Our church got to know some homeless men panhandling under an overpass. You would think those men would be loners, but they also have a community. Everyone longs to be accepted.

Great post, BTW.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Oh Maureen, that is beautiful.

And thank you everyone for sharing your beauty with me! You have lit up my day and I feel hopeful!



Peter P said...


M.L. Gallagher said...

Thanks Pete -- and you could call me... Maureen? Joyce? ;)

You are special.


Anne Lang Bundy said...

Community. A rhythm. A beat. A pulse. A flowing river connecting you to him and her and them and us to you and back again flowing ever onward. Ever forward. Ever over, into and under.

How marvelously and beautifully you've captured the essence of community.

Anne Lang Bundy said...

I trust you don't mind me quoting you on my blog, for tomorrow's post. (Goes up at midnight Eastern time.) :D

Building His Body

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hi Anne -- I am honoured that you did! Thanks. :)