Why We Long to Belong

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Have you thought about the number of times we say or hear word “belong” in the course of a week? “Do you belong to our membership rewards club?” What church did she belong to? “I’m a member.” “I’m an Aggie, Buccaneer, Bearkat, et al.”  “What team did you play on (belong to)?” “Who are you with?” All of these statements imply “belonging,” and by definition it means we are not alone.  To be alone can be, unless it’s exactly what you want, one of the most separating feelings in the world.

You may belong to a very large family, or you may be a single person with no living relatives. Family is not always about blood. Family can be created by continuing to surround yourself with wonderful people in your life. They can be friends, neighbors, or people who belong to the same Sunday School class, and it is there that your presence or absence matters. You are missed when you don’t join a gathering. Someone calls you to see if you’re okay. You are joined with them in friendship.

Many people are estranged from their birth families, yet they seem content. Why? Maybe it’s because they created a family they chose to belong to, or who chose them to belong. The biggest non-genetic family in town is, clearly, that of the Texas Aggies. “We are the Aggies, the Aggies are we. We’re from Texas AMC.” Every time we sing the songs, swaying in the stands, we repeat our “We belong” message. Wearing a ring also says the same thing. Wedding rings are like that, too, joined together at the heart.

Similar family feelings are held by those whose loyalty belong sto Blinn, Sam Houston, and the University of Texas at Austin. When we’re not singing a song, we are identifiable by the colors of clothing we wear. What makes us want to belong to something or with someone? To be called family member, friend of, member of, resident of, alumnus of something bigger than we are as a single person?

Did you watch the Aggies play Arkansas on Saturday, in person or on TV? How many times did you say or think “We need to make this play,” “We need to convert this 3rd down,” or “We need a win here!” as you watched the game? Now I realize that “we” weren’t down there on the field getting hit and being chased and running for the end zone, yet in fact, “we were” feeling every bit part of the team as the players did because we all wanted the same thing: the win.

When we are united in a common purpose and goal, whether for an hour, a day, a week or a lifetime, we are bonded by a shared commitment. We belong to causes that are important to us, whether supporting a sports team with our time, and wallets (t-shirts, caps, season tickets, etc.). There is nothing cooler than standing with hundreds or thousands of others who support the same thing you do. We then belong to a team of supporters.

When we belong to a family, whether related by blood or by shared people we love in common, we want the best for our family. We want to succeed and gather together often to celebrate our success. When one of us is sick, we all are impacted, whether we realize it or not. Hearing news of family joys and sorrows is how we “belong.”

Some people are isolated from relatives by choice and that’s in the best interests of those people. Despite everyone’s best intents, sometimes personalities clash and it’s better not to be with certain folks. But it can be equally fulfilling to gather a group of people who share your interests and values together. Sometimes we call it “our tribe” or “our surrogate family” and eventually, it’s just “family.”

When you read in obituary tributes the list of people who survived a person, many times there is no blood relation between the deceased and the survivors but they are the closest people in the world to the person who passed away. More today than ever before, “fur babies” are listed when someone has a custom life tribute because of the vital role they played in quality of life for the person. It’s valid, it’s important and it happens every day. The fur babies belong to us, and we belong to them. Some days, your dog might be the only person happy to see you at the end of the day. They can be listed in your tribute!

Humans and animals of all kinds need to connect and bond with friendship and/or love. We can all exist alone, but only for a certain amount of time, unless we’re Tom Hanks on an island with a volleyball.  In “Castaway,” Tom drew a face on the volleyball and addressed it by the company name, “Wilson.” None of us does well if we’re stuck on a virtual desert island, and that’s why we reach out for others we care about. There we make our home.

My dad showed by his example that “We are our best selves when we are giving to others.” Giving your time, advice, care, concern, and finding out what someone else needs for survival or feeling at peace is how we give to others. When the gifts we give others are received in the spirit they’re given, the message of love is received. Giving is receiving, as the saying goes. And loving others is belonging to something bigger than ourselves.

Make a list of the top five people in your life that you are not related to that you’re really happy to be with every week or every day. It can include friends from high school, work, your neighborhood. What joins you and your friends in common? Why are you important in their lives? Here’s to true friends, friends of the heart, lifelong friends and friends along our path. We are richer because they’re in our lives. We belong.


Cody D Jones ’02
Owner and Community Member