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BelongingPosted Monday, December 6, 2010, at 12:03 PM
This is the time of year that I'm reminded of a personality trait I have.
I like to belong to organizations and groups which I want to support. And, in December I receive all the membership renewals associated with each one.
Perhaps this trait of mine relates to a belief that we really can change a community by the organizations that serve it. Perhaps it goes back to my early school days when I was usually in the last half of the people picked for any sport team so I'm just pleased to be accepted into anything. Perhaps it is connected to having moved fifteen times (so far) in life and membership in organizations and groups lets me quickly "belong."
"I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member," Groucho Marx once said.
Maybe my standards are too low!
It is amazing that I can stay a member in good standing as long as I pay those membership dues! Organizations in communities I've not visited in decades will keep me on their mailing lists and send me those "Holiday Reminders." And, as long as there are friends from the past still in leadership, I'll support those organizations even though I don't directly benefit from belonging.
Yet, there is one organization that didn't track me down.
I may have forgotten them but it felt like they forgot me as well! I contacted one of the officers from the Lodge and double checked that they had my correct address.
Yup, came the reply.
I asked if they had sent me any dues reminders since I left years ago.
Nope, came the answer.
Why not, I inquired, don't you still want me as a member?
We're waiting for you to prove that you still want to be a member, came the response.
That response challenged me. All year long I've struggled with whether or not I was going to mail in my dues. It is one thing to belong to a group you're going to see in your present environment. It is one thing to continue belonging to a group that still wants you (and, of course, your dues money) even after you've moved far away.
But to show a group you don't see anymore that you still want to belong to them ...
It is Advent season, nearly Christmastime. A lot of people are coming to church services all throughout the county, good people the "regulars" may not have seen in a while. I've come to realize these folks are showing they want to still belong.
You may have family members who unexpectedly send you a card or a gift even though the year has been filled with tension. You may have friends who suddenly show up after months or years of not being present.
I hope you'll gladly accept what they have to offer.
Relationships are easier when it feels like we're being valued, sought out, and are still needed. Even something as impersonal as a membership dues notice affirms that your input is still important. It is nice to think that they are still "proving" they want you to belong.
It is quite another matter when you have to prove it.
Investment. Proving that you want that relationship to be as strong as possible.
I believe that sums up the Christmas story pretty well.
P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.