A wise old Electrician once told me, discover what you love, then if you can find a way to make a living at it. Or at the very least make enough to live while you enjoy your passion. It wasn’t empty talk, that electrician was my Dad. Him and my Mum (the Candy Lady at our Co-Op) ensured that both their kids could pursue their interests, wherever the muse may take them. For I believe they knew in pursuit, was discovery that in this world, we are all the same, as well, in the pursuit and discovery you not only find yourself, you find what fills your soul and can keep you going even in the darkest nights of the soul. In one of the acknowledgements in a book of mine I wrote a thank you to my Dad for taking me to all the different writing groups and courses in my life growing up, even if they were only able to be found in spots that if my Mum had seen them would’ve caused her a heart attack. Writing is one place I have found belonging. Growing up, I also enjoyed law, politics, was apart of Junior Achievement, Future Entrepreneurs of Canada, took the Dale Carnegie Course, and could openly pursue my inquisitive nature into spirituality. Also, my geeked out moments around movies and comics. My folks did not set limits on us based on any assumed societal label, I still have the copy of King Arthur and his Knights my Dad scoured the city for when I was in grade 3, because I had come home sad after my school informed me I was not smart enough to read it.

It is lived experience that has led me to ask the questions in this title in my life building outreaches, ministries and programs. In working integration work alongside individuals leaving institutional life. They can be hard questions to answer. I have found we have  a tendency to over program. Even working with youth from across socio-cultural-religious spectrums, some of the answers I would get started with “My parents registered me for…” not a “well I enjoy doing…”

I look to my own children. I know we are judged by some because our children are not overly programmed. They have hobbies and interests. They have personality, and we figure out how to support that. My daughter loves art, writing, math, Harry Potter, animals and gaming. My son loves animals, his dog, reading, and movies. Can you guess the labels society has placed on them by how they answer the questions in the title? Good. Why should that matter.

Belonging is about discovering what brings us together, fills us up, and makes a better home, community and world. Inclusion, accessibility and welcome is ensuring the spaces with the proper understanding, physical accessibility and individual supports exist for that to happen. When authentic belonging happens, and is replaced by rampant programming we see and live in the 21st century the result.

Out of hurt, anger and burn out comes isolation, hatred, anger. Barriers imposed and created by whatever labels can be thrown out. Common ground is scorched and salted like a raised village in a war myth of old. Hence the rise of neo-nazism, terrorism, extremism, fundamentalism, entrenchment, ableism, barbarism, addiction (pick your destroyer that seeks to fill the void of not belonging, yet uses the language of belonging–the snake oil sold to the mass).  For it is seen in the now, where the algorithm chooses your knowledge that:

Better to destroy before I risk the loss and hurt and joy and love of belonging.

                For what happens if I honestly seek to answer what is my Hobby?

                I may meet my neighbour as a whole person, not a separating label.

Worse yet, one I may have always avoided may become, My FRIEND.

There is no longer Jew or Gentile,o slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

-Apostle/Saint Paul, one who used to live into the labels discovering and sharing the freedom of belonging

-Galatians 3:28 (New Living Translation)


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