Belonging: The Most Important Moment

I’m at my computer trying to finish up one of the many things that face teachers at the end of the school hear.  The room is empty.  I’ve given my exams for the day, and the students have gone home to collapse into their own end of year exhaustion before thinking about tomorrow’s exams.  Suddenly, something in the silence of the room calls to me to look up. There, in the window of my door is a most familiar and welcome face, smile beaming the full rays of the sun.  He had been a student of mine for four years who had graduated a year ago, and he is back to visit.

We spend more than an hour just catching up with me asking questions about his year at a prominent east coast university to which he had received a wonderful scholarship. He had all the qualifications, more energy than a dozen students, and the desire to adventure into this world.  It was, as I remembered, the perfect match.

He shares with me along a spectrum of experiences that certainly included the wonder and joys of such an experience, but he also reflects on how lonely that first year in college had been, what it’s like being a minority on a very white campus, and how much he missed the not so small crowd of close friends back home.

Then comes a poignant moment.

Whether it happened or not, I felt us both lean in.  I saw what I felt were the faintest of tears in his eyes which of course brought them out in mine when he told me of the most important moment of the entire year.

He had been invited to try out for a comedy troupe on campus.  As it turns out, this troupe is a widely known, enthusiastically loved group, and he didn’t know that at the time.  He tried out, and he was accepted.  And, as he told me, in that moment, he suddenly belonged. In that moment, he had a people, a group, a clan.  They expected him to show up.  They promised to include him.  They cared about him.  They belonged to him and he to them. They shared the passion of creating and performing together.  There were days and hours each week when he had a place that he had to be, and when he arrived, they were glad to see him.

He beams as he tells me of this moment.

These are the moments that save our lives.  Such saving moments may come many times to us.  Salvation is never a once for all thing.  Sometimes, we know how close to being lost we are, but most of the time, these saving moments of belonging happen and it takes us some time before we realize:  this is the most important moment of the entire year, of the day, of this month or of this season of my life.

When have we had these moments ourselves?  When have we been invited in?  When did our loneliness become belonging?  Who are the people?  What have been the circumstances? It’s good to take some time to day to remember, to rejoice and to celebrate these most important moments when we have been invited into belonging.  It’s important to be aware:  someone else may be scheduled for their most important moment today, and we just may be the messenger.

Bob Patrick

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8 Responses to Belonging: The Most Important Moment

  1. Lydia says:

    Everyone needs a tribe

  2. Barbara Stahnke says:

    This is one of my why I am a UU. UUS are my tribe of funny, honest, trying, working, caring, sad, and DIFFERENT people that come together to do our spiritual work. It is the only place that I have ever wanted to belong and then belonged with all my hopes and failures.

    • Sandy says:

      The very first time my husband and I attended church service at First UU Church San Diego, I felt like I had found my tribe. We had been church shopping for a year or so, and this felt like “it”. People were overwhelmingly friendly and social, and treated me like an old friend. Now, if I identify a new face at church, or another social meeting, I always try to make that first contact to let them know that they are welcomed and celebrated.

  3. Margaret Townsend says:

    Returning at 14 from 4 years abroad, summer stock was my “home”. Welcome and acceptance eased my way. Thanks for that reminder from long ago.

  4. Jim Warnock says:

    Wonderful story! I’ve seen that look of acceptance in students’ eyes. I’ve felt that moment of acceptance myself. Reading this reminds me to orchestrate moments of acceptance for others, especially those most in most need of a tribe.

    • Bob Patrick says:

      Some of us talk about “teaching to the eyes,” Jim. Sounds like you know that look. So much connection when we look one another in the eyes.

  5. Deborah Dietzler says:

    Your reflections are a highlight of my day. Thank you for sharing these inspiring stories and thoughts.

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