When I was 5 year-old I was marched off to kindergarten. I had no idea what was going on, but I had motivation to be able to read. When the Sunday papers arrived, I could see the bright colored comics, but had no clue what was in “the balloons.” Kindergarten was going to be my salvation.
On the first day of kindergarten, there I was among many children my age. I was amazed that there were that many in the world, so I guess I wasn’t listening to the teacher. One little guy in overalls was racing for the door and dutifully marched back to his seat. In retrospect, I should have joined him on his hot retreat.
I was different. I wasn’t listening. This apparently was cause to send me to the coat room. Over time I knew every figure on the coat room walls; Humpty Dumpty, Little Bow Peep (What kind of a name is Bow Peep? I guess she didn’t belong either) and a variety of others amidst an array of little coats. I can’t tell you what sins I committed to be relegated to that dark space!
In antiquity “belonging” meant surviving. There’s a part of our brains that wants to hide in a crowd, circle the wagons and have someone care enough about us to fight the good fight on our behalf. There is no part of a 5 year-old that feels good in a coat room. To that I can attest.
The Coat Room Saga was exclusionary and made me feel different. I thought different was analogous “unacceptable,” so I compensated with high achievement. I guess that’s better than drugs and antisocial behavior, but the root causes of extreme manifestations are the same. Not feeling welcome in the world.
This is what I now know: Those of us who are different are part of a mosaic of many colors. Blue shouldn’t try to be red, but should find a beautiful place in the sky. There is room for everyone in God’s world, but sometimes not in man’s world. Driven out of man’s world, we can become the Child of God. To accomplish that shift, we’ve got to see that belonging isn’t the same as to be-longing.
To be-longing is to reach for our highest and best, out-picturing our uniqueness to expand the human mosaic. From the roof-tops (and from the Coat Room of the Past), I proclaim that we are ok, that we are welcome and that our longing will only be answered with our own authentic voices.
With love, Rosanne