It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
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“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” — Saint Teresa of Calcutta
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the phrase “go back to where you came from.”
Those were the words our president uttered last week, and after he said them, I found myself feeling the rejection, the pain and the hurt behind them. While his words were aimed at four female elected officials, I know that many of us have also heard words like that in our personal lives.
“Get out! Go away! You are not welcome here anymore. You don’t deserve to be here. Leave!”
Sit with those words. How do they make you feel in your body, your heart and your mind? I know they make me feel pain. Why? Well, underneath those words is the implication that one doesn’t belong, and not belonging cuts to the core of what we desire and need to survive as human beings.
Belonging. I remember a quote from Mother Teresa (now Saint Teresa of Calcutta) where she said the biggest threat to us and our world was that people don’t feel as though they belong. “If we have no peace,” she said, “it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
When someone senses that they don’t belong, they don’t feel the ground underneath their feet. They don’t feel like they have a seat at the table. They don’t trust that they belong.
When you don’t trust that you belong, you flounder. You waver. You get scared. You become overcome with fear. I think we are all bearing witness to a lack of belonging in our country that’s rooted in our lack of belonging to our families, our neighborhoods, our houses of worship and our community centers. You can inhabit a house—be it a big white one or a small brick one—and if someone inside doesn’t feel they belong, they will disrupt peace or sow fear.
At times in my own life, I’ve wondered, “where do I belong?” I’ve wondered why I went from a place of belonging to wander. I’ve wondered where I belong now that my children have grown and my family has changed.
I’ve sometimes felt like I belong nowhere and everywhere. I belong to no one and everyone at the same time. Ultimately, though, I’ve come to trust that I belong to God.
I will say that I did feel like I belonged this weekend with everyone who gathered in Hyannis Port, MA, to celebrate the Special Olympics’ 50th anniversary. (Pictured above.) I didn’t just feel physically at home there. I felt at home because I was surrounded by people who all believe in the life-changing mission that my mother started in our own backyard. We gathered from all over and were united by one collective purpose. How amazing is that?
I think it behooves us to realize that, at our core, everyone wants to feel like they belong. It’s our life’s work to find where that is. It’s also important that we make those we love feel like they belong.
And, if you encounter someone who tells you that you don’t belong, then you need to realize that it’s actually their fear doing the talking. It’s their fear of not belonging that is causing them to feel that way.
Our words have power. None of us can truly know what our impact will be when we open our mouths, but if we pay attention to our intentions, then hopefully we’ll use our voices to make others feel welcome and like they belong. Each of us gets to decide whether we want to name-call, gaslight, or sow fear, or whether we want to elevate, empower and lift others up.
We each have the power—with our eyes, our mouths and our bodies—to either say “Go back to where you came from” or “Come here. You are welcome. You belong.”
May we all tread gently, for all of us are vulnerable.
Dear God, whenever I feel lost or like I don’t belong, please help me remember that I belong to you and that my true home is within. Amen.
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