Another school year was starting. My kindergarten students were sitting at their tables, usually very shy because they didn’t yet know one another. Once everyone was seated, I handed out the first worksheets of the year. I carefully explained that they were to look at the pictures in the fist row and put a big X on the picture in that row that was different and therefore did not belong. And we did this one row at a time, until the assignment was completed.
To me as the teacher, this was a simple exercise to determine how advanced each child was in their learning. But looking back many years later, I’m wondering about the message this accepted activity gave some of the slower children. When we went over the correct answers, did some of these precious four and five year olds receive the message: You are different, so you don’t belong?
I suspect all of us have felt like we didn’t belong at times. I know I have. But I don’t believe this is how God meant for us to be. He made us to be part of a community. Starting with the family unit, God wants us to feel a part of a group. In the church, community is also important. We are not meant to be alone and self-sufficient. We will all have times when we need the support of others.
This has become especially clear to me in recent weeks. Other than being around my immediate family, if it weren’t for social media, this would have been a very lonely time. The only times I’ve been able to leave the house have been for medical appointments. It’s been more than a month since I’ve been able to attend a church service or social event, because of one health problem after another. But I haven’t lived in a vacuum.
While I’d rather be in the physical presence of my friends, being in contact through social media is a close second. Because we have already built relationships, a quick chat on Facebook or a series of emails does wonders in helping me get past the feelings of loneliness. So does reading blogs written by my writing friends and responding. And being an active part of God-Living Girls, a Christian Bible study and support group for ladies with chronic illnesses, makes it easy to talk to someone who understands what I’ve been going through. I’ve built solid, caring relationships in my life, some in person and some through social media, and because of this I always have a place where I feel like I belong. Having a healthy social network provides a place to vent when I feel overwhelmed, to be supported during the difficult times, and to support others who are facing difficulties. And it helps me to see my circumstances from a clearer perspective, from others whom aren’t so close to the problems I’m walking through.
As it says in Ecclesiastes, two are better than one. Whether it’s two friends, husband and wife, and parent and child, this is always true. I encourage any of you who do not have a support network in your lives to begin building one. Then, no matter what happens, you will know that you belong!