Guest blog – Neighbours Every Day Ambassador Hugh Mackay AO
Every community has its differences of opinion, its social divisions, and its cultural tensions, which is simply to say that every community is both diverse and, inescapably, human. If you want to master the art of belonging, you’ll need to accept the imperfections and deal with them. And the best way of dealing with them is to overlook them. There’s a lot of tolerance – a lot of forgiveness – in the art of belonging.
Finding your community is about developing your capacity to make sacrifices for the common good, not about permanent exposure to the stimulation of the exotic. The secret to the art of belonging is no secret at all: it is to accept that belonging is not dependent on finding some Utopian setting. There is no wondrous community waiting somewhere for you to arrive so you can be embraced by the natives and imbued with the great Spirit of Belonging.
Although we often feel ourselves to be independent, we know that in practice, we are all interdependent; we utterly rely on families, neighbourhoods, schools, faith communities, workplaces, assorted clubs and associations and other groups sustain and nurture us and to give us the all-important sense of belonging that helps define who we are and how we fit into society.
And we rely on others to help us out of trouble – who wouldn’t call on their neighbours in an emergency or seek legal or medical advice when they are confronted by problems they can’t solve on their own? There is nothing like a health crisis to remind us of how dependent we are on others.
So, why bother to master the art of belonging? There are three reasons, at least.
- The experience of belonging to a community enhances your feelings of physical safety and emotional security and enriches your sense of identity.
- You will benefit from the mental stimulation of unplanned social encounters and interactions that are characteristic of life in a community. (Indeed, as you grow older, frequent social interaction is the best way of keeping dementia at bay – more effective than that daily crossword!
- The ‘state of the nation’ starts in your own street, and your own workplace: the way we interact with the communities we belong to ultimately determines the type of society we become.
It’s not where you live. It’s how you live.
Together we create belonging.
Neighbours Every Day Ambassador Hugh Mackay AO is one of Australia’s best known social researchers and the author of twenty-three books – fourteen in the fields of social psychology and ethics, and nine novels. Hugh’s book, ‘The Art of Belonging’, explores the reasons why some communities thrive, and others break down, and explains how community engagement enriches us all. In this blog Hugh talks about the importance of being socially connected to others. His recent book ‘The Kindness Revolution’ looks at how we can restore hope, rebuild trust, and inspire optimism.