A lot has been revealed to me over these past several years as I search for healing and truth is my life. Some of the lessons have been discovered simply in my times of self-reflection and writing. This one, however, has become evident in the life of others…the lives of several people who are very important to me.
I’ve had the opportunity to talk and visit a lot with my sister over the past 35 months, and during our discussions over morning coffee or leisurely visits to antique shops, we’ve both discovered that we can be vulnerable with each other. But even though I’d heard the words a number of time, they just hadn’t penetrated my understanding. A couple of incidents that have occurred in the past several months have taken care of that.
A little over a week ago, I had the pleasure of getting to spend a day with my family…my sister and two brothers. And while that doesn’t sound like an extraordinary event, in the case of my siblings it was. It had been nearly a decade since we had been together for anything other than a funeral. We were brought together to play in a golf tournament. At least, that’s why my brothers and I were there, along with my brother-in-law. My sister, however, was there for a much more important reason.
It wasn’t because she probably wanted (or needed) to walk the three and a half miles through soggy grass. And she probably wasn’t all that impressed with the wayward shots or the knuckle-bumping on the good ones. Even though she loves nature and the view of Mr. Rainier walking up the seventh fairway is spectacular, she was there because…well, she was invited. She belonged with us!!
Last Friday, as I drove the 55 miles up to my younger brother’s home for the fourth of July holiday, I called my sister-in-law. Again, not a special thing by itself…but Clare’s birthday was the next day and I wanted to wish her a Happy Birthday. When my brother answered the phone, I asked for his wife and then sang her my best rendition of “Happy Birthday” in my “not-so” Frank Sinatra voice. I could hear the joy in her voice as she thanked me for calling and serenading her for her birthday. I hadn’t called to talk to my brother…just her. In my own little way I had helped to feel like she is a part of our family. She belonged! It had only been a few months earlier when I discovered that she (or at least Frank) didn't believe that we had accepted Clare as being a part of our family.
I finally got it! The need of belonging and how important it is to us…even to me. I had “learned” all about it during my education coursework. Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”. I’d seen how important it was as it played out in the lives of the young people that I had taught and coached over the years. But I had never put my finger on it in my own life…or in the lives of those that I love. I guess I just took it for granted that they always knew they were loved and that they belonged as a part of my life. I was like the man on his wedding night who told his new bride, “I told you during the ceremony that I love you. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.”
We need more than that. I need more than that. And I need to make sure that those who are important to me know that I want them in my life…that they are important, and that they are loved. And I hope that in the future, I don’t need Agent Gibb’s slapping me in the back of the head to remember.