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Before interacting with the people I meet, I would like to turn on my energy, always trying to understand what they are feeling.
I have to cultivate this, or train my attitude, like a muscle.
I get at least some sense of belonging going to our farmers’ market, and walking or riding my bike and giving and receiving friendly greetings along the way. It’s warm and I’m glad it’s our town’s vibe, yet it isn’t the kind of belonging I know I can build over time as I meet more people in town.
I’m glad we moved into a fairly small neighborhood–the first place I’ve ever lived where people came over and introduced themselves as our neighbors within a day or so of us moving in. We’ve come to know more and more of them. We introduce ourselves as we walk around the little loop road, tell them which house we live in, chat briefly. That’s how I found out one neighbor is caring for his wife who has terminal cancer, and I brought them some soup. Last year a couple of them offered up the apples and pears from their trees free for the taking. I made a batch of apple-pear butter and gave each of them a jar as a thank-you. We have an annual potluck for all of us. Connecting over food is always a winner.
The Buy Nothing group for our larger neighborhood is a really great way to feel a sense of belonging, as I think about it. There are some regulars, always offering things and occasionally asking. The moms have a regular rotation of maternity clothing and baby stuff. People are generous and supportive. I’ve delivered things to people who couldn’t find time to come by and pick up something I had offered. I’ve made plum fruit leather and pickled zucchini from food people gave away.
In another town I lived in for years I joined boards and committees, started my town’s bike to work celebrations, started a women’s group that met monthly for over 10 years and kept going after I moved to another city. I felt like I had connections and friends all over town. Much of this was on the formal side of organizing and belonging: groups, committees, boards, events. Then I moved for a career opportunity. I spent years running a statewide nonprofit building a sense of belonging among advocates. It was fulfilling but I never had time to connect the way I once did, in local groups and initiatives, with people I could have coffee with on a Saturday. I miss that and now I feel as if I may have time to do that kind of connecting again.
I did a relatively simple thing to start that women’s group and I’m going to repeat it in my new town. I emailed a bunch of women I knew through work connections and said, “I feel like we could be friends but we only see each other in a professional context and there’s never enough time. We’re all busy so I’m going to schedule some friendship time. I’ll be at Rockwood Bakery at 9 a.m. on the second Saturday of next month. If you’d like to come hang out with other smart and interesting women, have coffee, and get to know each other a little better. you’re welcome to come and bring a friend if you like.” At least 10 women showed up for that first gathering. It became something really special. I just had a birthday brunch with a few work friends and realized they’re the seed of starting that kind of connecting space again. I think I want more of that rather than a return to being a “joiner” who has lots of committee responsibilities.
I just read an article by Anne Helen Petersen about the “friendship dip”–a drop in the number of close friends in certain decades of our lives due to the ways our life circumstances change. This feels like it fits here, in a way. https://annehelen.substack.com/p/the-friendship-dip
I just realized the question asked for ONE way. This is a topic I’ve been thinking about quite a bit recently so I couldn’t stop at just one thing.
Thanks Barb for mentioning your Buy Nothing group again – I just had a conversation with my daughter last night and couldn’t remember the exact name. For anyone interested I found this site: https://buynothingproject.org/find-a-group
I did a quick look for my neighborhood and my daughters and unfortunately I see these are ‘Facebook’ groups, which I am not a part of. It would be nice if they had a regular website 🙁
I agree. I would love to participate in this group, but I won’t go anywhere near Facebook.
They do have an app. Go to https://buynothingproject.org/ and there are links to download. Honestly, they’re almost the only reason I even log onto FB any more. I haven’t downloaded the app yet and I don’t know how it syncs up with the postings made on FB.
I work for a Health company that is very much part of the community in Rhode Island, we work hand and hand with the community health centers all across the state. There is always things to get involved in when I have the time. For instance we do an annual” Back to school” event giving needy families backpacks and supplies for school. Helping needy families is a big deal to me since I was also went thru a time in my life where I struggled with young children after my divorce and their father lost his job.
Where I live now it is not a community, nor do I believe it is intended to be. Others may sense this condo area as a community, but in truth, it just is not. Everyone keeps to themselves, not in a haughty way I wouldn’t say, but just living the daily life. We would say hello, getting into the cars, going to the dumpster, or such. To shop, we would need to drive minimally a mile down the road, but usually farther. During beach season, we are much more likely to greet one another and say hello, and some families may gather at the beach for a picnic or such. When I go there, I go alone, take a good long walk on the pier, and then head home. Nobody seems offended or expects otherwise. I come from another area of Michigan, though, and there we lived in neighborhoods, had more connection and friendships, and just seemed closer. In this new way/place, there can be a sense of emptiness. Before moving here I always lived in neighborhoods and we looked out for one another. Now it is just different. It probably helps that I am a high introvert. But there is kind of a hole in my heart sometimes. That is my truth.
I have always been active in whatever community I live in. Where I live now, it has been serving on multiple boards of directors of local organizations. Also the church that I belong to. And I have been active in politics since the 1960s. That having been said, I never have really felt a sense of belonging. Perhaps that is in large part because I am dark-skinned and (was) dark-haired with a “funny” last name when everyone around me was fair-skinned and fair-haired with Northern European background.
I really sympathize with those of you who find yourself in the wrong place. Move if you can! Despite the above-mentioned participation in local groups and having a number of friends and acquaintances here, I never really will fit in in Suburbia. But we got priced out of the City (NY).
BTW between old age and the pandemic I am no longer as active as was, although I do continue to participate in local politics. I am seeking out alternate ways to make a difference.
I can participate in local community events. I can keep the outside of my home looking nice. I can keep the indoors of my house open and ready for company. I can keep making good meals and inviting others to eat. I can volunteer more at church and in the community. I can keep my friends close and active.
Open up a space in my home for people to meditate and gather together to learn how to let go of our empty hands .
I thought that opening a restaurant would help me find more belonging in my community. We live in the country, so it’s hard to meet people since we don’t live in a neighborhood, rather have a few acres and are surrounded by others with the same. We have met our immediate neighbors, but they pretty much stick to themselves, which is fine. Anyhow, I was so excited when we opened our restaurant in spot that was already there (locals get mad when new buildings go up). And while I have met some nice folks that live out here, most of the old-school people from this country area are pretty grumpy, extremely picky, and very judgmental – one person actually called my very talented Chef husband a “yankee cook” since he’s from PA. It’s really disheartening, quite frankly, and in the back of my mind I am thinking about where we will move when our business lease is up. Not just the business, but our home in general. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very nice people out here, but I hate to say that most of them moved here from somewhere else rather than being the sort that say, “my family’s been here for 8 generations.” I do my best to stay focused on the good people and keep my energy positive, but this has been the most challenging time of my life.
Thank you for sharing SunnyPatty! There is this myth that rural areas are welcoming. I have lived in my rural area for 30 years and I can still feel the sting these many years later. Keep being your true self, keep nurturing the people that fill your cup with their welcoming attitude. Keep feeding thier bodies and their souls. Blessings to you and your family.
Thank you, Ana Maria. It is definitely a myth about welcoming rural areas! Around here, they really don’t want anyone new, but development is coming this way, as the rest of the county is full and we’re the only area left with any room. I don’t want townhouses everywhere, but some growth will be good for the economy as well as government services and the like. I am keeping my head up, but some days are harder than others.
Ana Maria, Well said! Do you hear my AMEN!
Which country/state is this? I am just curious because things are similar where I live (Texas, US).
I read you post, Joao, and I’m sorry you are dealing with a similar situation. I am also in the South of the US – in Charleston, SC to be exact. Well, I grew up in Charleston, but I am in the lower part of the county which is still quite rural. And a little behind the times, honestly. And if one more person asks me EXACTLY where I live, I might self-combust! hahaha! Keep your head up. Keep doing you. It will work out for the both of us!
I am sure it will! I am in West Texas
I am an international student living in a small town in Texas, and it has been a really challenging experience. I hear all over that people from my city/region are friendly and welcoming, and even in student groups within my university, I always see people saying “join us!”, “bring a friend”, “we would love to get to know you”, etc. However, I notice that people are not as open as they preach (which annoys me and makes me wonder). I am not sure if people act the way they act because they are afraid of the new or being judged. I have been to many places here where there were more than 100 people, and nobody, or just a few actually approached me and started a superficial conversation. With all this, I made the choice to stop trying to fit in and live my life how I want. This brings me peace and lets me figure out myself and what I truly want. I started noticing that I do not want to be around people just for simply being (this does not make sense to me), but instead have people in my life that share the same values and beliefs. I am also learning that quality is more important than quantity. I have a European background, so living in a community that has completely different social habits is challenging and is teaching me a lot (one example I can give is in Europe we usually go to coffee shops, shopping malls, etc and we have a chance of getting to see and know other people. Here in my small town in Texas, I feel people are always busy and not really willing/wanting to make meaningful connections). I know not the whole US is like this, but this is the experience I am going through living in this small town, and my background of living in a big city with different social habits.
Joao, I think you are wise not to try to fit in. Life is process not product, presence not performance. I’m sad to hear that you are experiencing feelings of isolation but would encourage you to focus on what you can learn about you from this experience. Everything and everyone is our teacher. Sincerely, Carol
Welcome! I am so happy you are creating an environment that works for you! Getting to know the community norms of a new place makes it a bit easier to adjust. Keep building “your” comunity.
I would like to do more and help out in
some way. My “spare” time is almost
non existent. I do help my neighbors
on a regular basis and I’m glad I can
do that. Some day, I would like to be
able to take young people out into
nature and expose them to that world.
Young people that don’t have the
opportunity or the means to see that
part of life. The other dream, would be
to help people in crisis. Some sort of
transitional supportive housing.
These things will have to wait, as I am
over scheduled, just keeping my boat
I live in an unique complex for “my age group”. To get to know one anther is a challenge. I have organized a block party, and a conversation gathering.
When I join a group, I show up and contribute to its healthy functioning.
On my daily walk I have made it a point to greet all I meet. Some are walking, some are working in their yards, some are sitting on their porches, etc. Since moving here in 2019, I’ve met a lot of my neighbors this way and we’ve become part of each others lives. I attend events and join discussion groups at the public library where I learn new things and forge new friendships. I’m active in gatherings at the Council on Aging locally. COVID hit shortly after I arrived in NE Kansas and the isolation and not knowing others was challenging but my daily visits to this site and ZOOM gatherings offered by the local library helped tremendously. The Daily Question community is very special to me. I’m very comfortable here, I truly sense that I am accepted. I belong.
Good to hear that, Carol! One thing that caught my attention is that you are actively looking for making connections. Have you ever met someone and things happened naturally? The few people I know tell me I should be more friendly, but I deal with the though of not wanting to force something just to make connections (for example, I was raised on a city where we do not say good morning to people on the streets, and it feels forced to me to do that just to show people I am friendly – when I am, on my own way). Please do not take this personally. I am a young adult and I am still figuring out how is to be a grown up together with the challenge of doing this is a different country.
Joao Cardoso, Thanks for your comment. It has given me food for thought. Everyone’s country has cultural mores and if it is inappropriate in your country to wish some one good morning or good day when you pass them on the street, I can totally understand why you do not feel comfortable doing so. I live in a small town of 35,000 and even here there are some folks that do not respond to my greeting. It does not upset me because my intention is not to make a connection. My intention is to wish them well. Some I may never see again but since I walk each day in my own neighborhood, many times I see some of the same folks over and over and we become familiar to each other and look forward to greeting each other warmly. I’m retired, in the winter of my life and am just out and about to get some exercise.
That is a great mindset, Carol! I really like it. It would make lot more sense to me if I wish someone a good day because I truly mean it (without that expectation of a possible connection by doing so). Up to this point, I have encouraged to greet someone to start a conversation (kinda show the other person I am friendly and willing to make new connections. But doing this way gives me the feeling I am being fake at some extent; one of my friends even told me I should start telling people I like their clothes to start a conversation, and ask ’em where they bought it, but it brings me again the “being fake feeling”). Thanks a lot for sharing this with us!
Singing is one way that I actively cultivate a sense of belonging in my community. Even if it is a small group or a large group, I am happy to see people gathering, enjoy our traditional music, and memories of our country. We speak English in our daily life; when we go to work, when we communicate to our next generations. A little bit of music in our first language has tied us together.
To be part of the solution. I realize that may seem vague, but as I move through my days in my many communities, that is what I try to stay tuned into; and that can look like many different ways of being.
I am active in a few spiritual and civic groups. Last night I spent time with a political candidate’s campaign on a busy city street corner promoting name recognition as last minute folks headed to polls. Alas, I scanned the morning news, I am disappointed by the outcome, as a radical minded person got elected for my neighborhood ward. I’m more involved in a spirituality group, and provide my time, talent, and treasurer there. Previously I was very active in a parish community. Again, due to what I see as misguided “woke-ism” amongst the members, I have withdrawn to safeguard my emotional and spiritual sense of safety. This has been a tremendous loss for me, and yet, a decision that was needed to uphold my integrity of being.
Carla, thanks for “voicing” these thoughts. I can relate.
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