Why Bother To Welcome Others?

Why Bother To Welcome Others?

We have all experienced what it is like to not belong, to be on the outside, to feel like the fish out of water. In elementary school, we had a little song that we sang when we did not want anyone else to join our game. It went like this, “Tick-tock the game is locked, nobody else can play. Hooray! And if they do, we’ll kick them out. Tick-tock the game is locked.” I remember feeling exuberant I when I got to hold hands with the other members in our little group and sing that song to the one standing on the outside of our circle. I also recall how deflated I felt when the same song was sung to me as an outsider.    

Belonging  

On the playground, it was paramount to be part of a group. To be on the outside meant being alone, that you were a loner, a loser. Being cut off from the crowd made you vulnerable. Loners automatically became a target to the bullies. The ruffins knew that anyone left to themselves was easy prey. Without any allies, you were exposed to nasty comments, or even some “accidental” shoving around. Yet, when I was part of the group that sang that song telling an outsider that they could not play with us, I did not offer them any comfort. Even though I knew what they would be up against standing alone on the outside, I made no effort to step out and welcome them in. That was not how the rules went. 

Wanting to belong is a normal and natural component of humanity. Whether we are eight or eighty, we have been created to be social. There is something intrinsic that pulls us toward one another. Though being alone and quiet for short periods of time can refresh us, being solitary for long periods of time is detrimental to our health. We need association with others. We need tangible camaraderie. 

 When we are an accepted member of a group, we know we belong to others and with others. We are not alone, a little less vulnerable and a little more emotionally stable. Being a part of a group gives us the opportunity to share common goals, values and beliefs with others. Being a part of a group can give us the confidence to step out and include others into our group instead of excluding them. 

Yet, being a member of a group does not automatically mean we belong to the group. We can be a “poser,” artificially inserting ourselves into places where we do not really fit. For instance, there was a time when I marched with other protesters, chanting about the latest political atrocity of the day. Moving along with the crowd, and chanting words I didn’t really believe eventually made me realize that just because I was part of the group, I did not really belong to the group. Though belonging is important, it is also critical to notice if we truly belong. Belonging to a group means we don’t have to give up our authenticity to join. 

Why bother to welcome others? It is worth making the effort to step out and make another feel welcome. We all know what it feels like to be on the outside looking in. 

Why Bother Belonging?

Why Bother Belonging?

     I do not belong to any associations. I do not pay any dues to be a member of any particular club. I do, however, belong to a writer’s group. 

Similarities and Differences

     My writer’s group is small, six members total. We meet once a month. Our format, though flexible, includes critiquing each other’s work. Yet, even if someone doesn’t submit something to be edited, no one is criticized for it. Everyone has their “dog days” or even “dog months.” 

     Our group is all female. Though we’ve had a few males come and stay for a month or two, none of them made the commitment to stay for the long haul. Women can be competitive, yet we don’t compete against each other. None of us write the same genre. There are those in the group who are historical fiction writers while others write mystery, young adult fiction and steampunk. I am the only non-fiction writer of the group. We are not brutal with our reviews of each other’s writing. We are very honest, and kind. We do not not patronize. Since flattery has a tendency to falsify, and inflates someone only temporarily, we choose to encourage and inspire one another with truthful and constructive comments. 

     I am not sure how long I’ve belonged to this group of writers, but I remember how it all started. Knowing my interest in writing, a friend invited me to the group. I wasn’t sure if I could even associate with other writers. I wasn’t a published author, I just liked writing. Would I belong? The members, a larger group back then, welcomed me and explained the format. They all seemed much more knowledgeable and farther along than me in the journey of becoming authors. Yet, no one minded my questions or discouraged my curiosity. 

     I went back the next month with a piece of my own writing to share. I nervously waited my turn to read. My mouth went dry the moment I opened it. I felt naked, exposed and vulnerable to this new group of women I barely knew. They listened to me read and when I finished, they each took their turn to comment. They were kind with their remarks. Their statements did not demean me. Rather, they caused me to think about why I wrote what I wrote. Their views forced me to consider the words and phrases I’d chosen. In short, they made me take a closer look at what I’d only held at arm’s length. I went back the next month and the next. After a time, I was no longer the newbie in the group. Instead, I’d melded into becoming an “old” member, welcoming the newbies that came after me.  

     I’m not the same person who showed up that first time at the writer’s group. I’m no longer quite as naked and vulnerable as I was at the beginning. Instead, when I sit down at the table with this group of writers, I sense their rich knowledge, their willingness to be generous with it and the pleasure of our camaraderie. We are tromping together, along the writing trail. 

     Why bother to belong? It is worth knowing where and with whom you can affiliate. Becoming vested with a group ensures the help we need to steadily trudge in the direction we want to go. It only helps to belong.  

 

Why Bother Finding Your Clan?

 

Why Bother Finding Your Clan?

“No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main,” wrote John Donne. Even if you think you are a loner, you are not. Everybody needs to belong and be accepted. But finding your clan can feel risky. It takes time and trust. 

Finding my Tribe

When a friend, who knew of my interest in writing, invited me to her writer’s group, I was piqued with interest and inflicted with anxious thoughts at the same time. Though I’d kept journals for years and had published some articles in magazines, I’d never thought of  myself as a “real” writer. Who was I to think I could mingle with other scribes? I wasn’t really one of them, but I wanted to be. So I went knowing there’d be the possibility of rejection. 

The meeting, held in a sunny kitchen that overlooked a view of suburban wildlife; squirrels, birds and a raccoon, was more casual than I’d expected. I sat down at an empty spot at a long wooden table with the six other members of my friend’s clan of writers. Though I’d attended writer’s conferences before, and even spoken to one or two professional writers, I’d never sat among them. 

My friend introduced me and then the leader went over the ground rules. “Every member submits 250 words each month, and you bring enough copies of your writing piece for each person in the group. Then you read yours out loud, and the rest of us comment.” 

I nodded my head while my palms dampened at the thought of reading anything I’d written out loud to anyone. But the following month, I went back with 250 words written and copies for everyone. When my turn came, my mouth went dry the moment I opened it and I was too frightened to look at anyone. Never having had an audience before, reading something out loud I’d written,  made me feel naked and vulnerable. When I was done, I hardly knew what to expect.

Their comments were not sappy and insincere, “Oh, that was lovely.” Neither were they unkind or curt, “That was stupid.” Rather they were constructive; “ I think you need to tell us more in your second paragraph.” “I think if you added a transition it would be helpful.” 

After that day, I was hooked. I felt accepted by this tribe and that I belonged. The initiation was over and done with. I was a part of the gang and returned week after week, year after year. Even when I considered leaving the group when my schedule turned crazy and busy for a season, they would not hear of it. “Hang in there and keep coming,” they told me. So I did. 

I am no longer the newest member of the circle, others have come and gone. But the one thing that remains the same about this community is that we write and I know that without them, I’d never lasted this long with the task of writing.

Why bother finding your clan? “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.” As human beings, we want to belong as writers, lovers of books,  cyclists, hunters or quilters. It is worth the risk to find your place and begin to associate with other like minded people. You may be surprised at the transformation that  takes place with you and with them.  I know I was.