May 25–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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