The Need to Belong

Are we individuals or are we a part of something greater?


No matter how you choose to look at it we all are a part of a group of some sort. Whether formed by borders, creed, or blood we belong to something. We become claimed by different communities simply by being at a certain place at a certain time. I am an American. I am a Meldrum. I am part of the graduating class of 2003. I didn’t have much of a say in these things. Circumstances chose my groups for me.


Life has provided plenty of opportunities for me to align myself with different communities of my choosing. I chose to attend Brigham Young University-Idaho for my higher educational needs. The main motivation behind this selection was based on the people I hoped to find. Plenty of other colleges could have given me what I needed, but I wanted more for my social life than others could offer. I felt this school had a type of people I would be familiar working with complemented by new experiences for me to gain from. You know what? I was right.


Last week was the first week of summer break for us college students. I was bored so I decided to go watch whatever action flick was playing in our one theater in town. A couple of gals from my church happened to notice me and made a point of sitting right next to me during the movie. Afterwards, we discovered plenty of people we knew happened to be at the movie as well. We all got to talking and someone brought up the idea of going out to eat. I was in the mood for food anyway and it worked out they chose the place I was initially going to get ice cream at. They took forever to get moving so I started out on my own.


I was eating my parfait when the entire group finally made it to the place. One of them eventually waved to me to join them at their table. I guess my table wasn’t good enough for them. I squeezed into a tiny little space leftover on the side. The conversation revolved around one guy at the table in particular. He was the one everyone knew. It was initially his decision for everyone to go to this particular restaurant. He made it hard to get a word in during the group conversation. No one considered my thoughts or laughed at my jokes until this one guy approved of it. I just focused on my parfait after a while. The gals I knew would occasionally ask me how I was doing. I’d tell them I was fine.


Agonizing Over Organizing Organisms


We create communities for the purpose of self-preservation. People come together to meet needs incapable of being met by individuals alone. Relationships, businesses, and nations form because someone decides being alone is not good enough. The person creating the community decides what the organization needs and implements the different components to maintain a working system. Unnecessary components are removed so to maintain efficiency.


Communities are living organisms. They’re born, they live, and then they die. Healthy communities will last longer than troubled ones. What makes a community healthy depends on who is filling the different roles within that group. The roles required are based on what the whole group values.


“What are We Going to Do Tonight, Brain?”


An organism needs a brain. Someone has to call the shots in the group. Whether intentional or not, someone is going to be made the leader of the group. The decision making needs to be made either by an individual over the group or by a select group within the collective. Not everyone should be allowed to have a say in what goes down. Imagine if parents weren’t allowed to make decisions without the consent of their toddler. What if the government had to convince every citizen first on pursuing a course of action before implementing it? Nothing would get done. Every group has its figure of authority.


Who gets elected to be leader is based on one criterion: can he or she get the job done? People will ally with those they deem fit for the job. No lingering doubts on the individual’s abilities can be allowed. All of us measure a person’s capabilities differently, but we all can recognize the difference between a strong person and a weak one. The most talented person usually is chosen for the leader. He or she is not necessarily going to be the smartest or the most physically impressive subject. The leader just has to do the work of decision making for the group.


I usually pass on the responsibility of leadership. It just doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t like telling people what to do. At the same time, I don’t like people telling me what to do. I would lead if people chose me. However, I am naturally placed in more supporting roles.


“They Look Like Big, Good, Strong Hands, Don’t They?”


No one person can take on all the different roles in a community. Every gear in the clock needs to have a purpose within the greater framework or else the gear won’t move on its own. Each member is given a separate role that supports the whole. Some are the feet, others are the hands, and some are the eyes. They all contribute differently, but they all fulfill a need.


I usually fulfill the role of the entertainment in social settings. It’s not a glamorous role, but it keeps me employed. It answers the question a group naturally asks: why are you here? I’m always good for a laugh.


“The Island of Misfit Toys.”


Looking for a place to belong is hard work in and of itself. Not everyone has a place carved out for them to fit into. If people don’t see any use for us, then why would they take us in? If you can’t do the work, then what good are you to the group?


Most people don’t know about my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. They don’t need to know that to recognize that I am different from other people. Different poses a threat to the unity of any group. I wasn’t invited to join sporting events as a child because people doubted my ability to play well. You won’t see me invited to too many social events these days because people doubt if I can be interesting enough for them.


I can understand this reasoning. I don’t go looking for insightful conversation from people who I know can’t speak their minds. And I don’t seek help from people who can barely take care of themselves. However, I feel everyone has a purpose in life. I believe that no one is useless to anyone.


“I’m Spartacus!”


If you can’t choose between two groups, then create your own. I’ve spent most of my life trying to make other people happy at the expense of my own happiness. He who tries to please everybody ends up pleasing nobody. No one should have to sacrifice their individuality just to gain a little community.


I’ve found a new happiness for myself. Everyone is my group. I don’t exclude anyone. Every person who comes my way I try to see the good in them. If I can’t see a use for them, then that means I am failing them and I simply keep trying until I see it. I haven’t given up on anyone yet.


We are all equals. On some level, in some way we are all the same. I don’t get to decide who belongs in my world. This is our world. There is room enough for us all. And if there isn’t? I will find room.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s