Natalie de Jager, who is a singer and songwriter, talks about the practicalities of belonging and how contributing and feeling useful is part of belonging at any age.
“I’m part of a church that I’ve been with for maybe 15 years. And I definitely feel like I belong there, not only because of the time that I been there, although of course that helps, but there’s a real sense of community.
“When I had my twins seven and a half years ago I remember answering the phone and there was a woman saying: It’s Alicia from church I’ve got a meal for you, and I’m like, I don’t even know an Alicia! I let her in the gate and she was just bringing a meal around for me knowing that I was a new mum of twins and I had an older child to feed and all that stuff. And there were lots of people who brought meals.”
“At one point I was kind of losing the plot and my husband rang the care team at church and the next thing you know, the next day, these three grannies come over, and they were mopping my floor, hanging out my laundry, leaving dinners. So there’s a real practical help and support which I think is, well it really makes you feel like you belong.
“I suppose you could get a lot of belonging in any group where you have the same thoughts or values, so you probably feel like you belong in a dance club or a Taekwondo club, but somewhere where you share the same spiritual beliefs. — you’re all worshipping the same God —that definitely makes you feel like you’re part of the community and you belong to each other. You belong to the same God. There’s a real sense of belonging, partly because you’re serving each other as well, and you’re being served, particularly in that time of need for me.
“I’m on the singing team: I sing and I know that that is really encouraging to other people. And also we meet up during the week for Bible studies and things like that, so you really are a part of the community. My older son teaches Sunday school there so I would say it’s like another family, like a church family.”
“Is this the type of thing you’re after?”
Belonging is whatever it means to you. I think it’s interesting to hear you talk about the practicalities of belonging because it’s not always esoteric.
“Belonging is more than just a feeling. Also if you were left out in the cold in your time of need it probably would feel like you didn’t belong, or you were isolated.”
A third of Australians feel isolated and lonely.
“Oh I’d believe that. And I’m sure so many of them are the aged and disabled. I’ve heard this a lot from the elderly and not even just older women at church, Maybe their husbands have passed and they feel like they want to be useful. If they don’t have grandchildren in the same city then they are at a bit of a loss as to what they can do. They probably can’t stack chairs or do certain physical things but they might be able to make sandwiches or morning tea. So the women that were coming to help me were in their sixties or maybe seventies. Three of them came for a number of Fridays. They loved it and they held my babies. They felt useful. Even though they’ve got their own community I could see and they spoke of just how wonderful it was for them to be useful again.
There’s a use for all of us.
“I think you’re absolutely right! I’m pretty open and I asked for help from whoever, and I know a lot of people aren’t like that. I’ll ask my neighbour to mind the twins if I’ve got to run my older son up to a school camp. So that’s another thing: I live in a townhouse complex and I belong there. It’s a huge belonging community for all of us actually. Huge.”