Even more on belonging

In contrast with 'Christine' from my last entry, here are the words of 'Ethan', another MK who also faced the task of trying to belong to his home country.

‘Overwhelmed is a good word to describe how I felt at the beginning of my senior year in the huge highschool in my home country. I had never seen so many white kids in my life.

Very quickly I learned that in order to meet people, make new friends and learn the ropes, I had to initiate the conversation. The other kids were not interested in me, nor did they have a desire to understand the places I had been and the things I had seen. In order to fit in, I felt I had to talk about the things and places with which they were familiar. In essence, I had to be like them.

Sounds like the beginning of a miserable year, right? It actually ended up being not so bad. Two things helped. First, I got involved in small groups at school. The first week I tried out for the swim team and because I could swim well from my years in Africa, I became captain of the team. I also joined the choir. I spent time in both these groups getting to know kids that I had things in common with. I ate lunch with these people, sat in class and rode the bus with them.

These groups helped me get to know and spend time with the other kids that I wouldn’t have gotten to know had I just gone to class and home again. There are many special interest groups in high schools, from sport to language to vocational groups.

The second important group was the church youth group. Every furlough my sister and I attended the same church, so we were familiar with lots of the kids who were in the youth programs. Very few of these went to my school, but I had Christian friends to go out with on weekends and looked forward to going to church on Sundays without feeling like a stranger.’

Ethan has an innate sense of the four spaces of belonging. He instinctively understands that 'deep' friendships will not necessarily help him belong, but that public and social belonging will start that process.

Ethan is also far more other-centred than Christine. He doesn't expect that anyone will come to him. Rather, he knows he will have to go to them. He echoes God's love in the initiative that he takes with other people.

And from the tone of his words, Ethan is a whole lot happier than Christine!