On July 4th, Jan and I had the honor of officiating our daughter’s wedding. Toward the end of the ceremony, I had Anna and Jared exchange rings. I explained to them wearing my wedding ring for the last 47 years was a daily reminder that I belonged to someone – to Jan. I remember the day Jan and I drove to the Eastridge Mall in San Jose, California, to buy our rings. I still carry the joy of that day. After all these years, the pattern on our rings has long worn off, but their meaning has grown more significant and meaningful with each passing day.
A sense of belonging is critical for a person to be healthy, both emotionally and spiritually. Belonging is not created by wearing jewelry or owning shared property. It is a look in a person’s eyes when you embrace them that speaks of shared love and commitment. It is a feeling you carry when apart wanting to be in their presence once again. It is a sacred trust and something you protect at all costs.
Perhaps one of the greatest things we can do for someone is to let them know they belong. For a friend, it is offering a reminder of the value of your friendship. For a stranger, it is affirming them as a fellow human being who is worthy of our love and respect.
When people no longer feel like they belong, a separation occurs, and in that place of separation, mean-spirited and harsh things take up residence. The only thing that can disempower those things is a kind word or a gesture of affirmation that tells them they belong. We all belong to each other and to God. No one should ever feel like they are alone. Knowing we belong is the first step in healing the painful wounds of separation. It is our responsibility to initiate that first step with each person we meet.