The Secret to Belonging

Erik Cooper —  October 30, 2013 — 2 Comments

Sometimes I learn the most beautiful things in the most unexpected places.

This past weekend, my wife and I took our three kids to the launch of a new experiment at one of our company’s apartment complexes. Community Life is a brilliant organization that moves strategic people into rental communities to help foster healthy connections and relationships among the residents. We’ve been working on this partnership since I started back at CRF last year, but only last month did their team finally find the right people to make it work.

Saturday was the official kickoff at one of our two designated developments, so we dragged the kids over to help the new Community Life Architects with the hot dogs, bounce house, and hay rides (and on some level just to be nosy). The event was fabulous, but it was an off-handed conversation my wife had with one of the residents that undoubtedly made the biggest impact on me.

“In all my years of living in these apartments, I never thought I’d see what I saw here today. Residents volunteering to serve other residents. That’s crazy. That’s not normal here. It blows me away.”

Sure enough, she was right. Residents setting up tables. Residents working the food line. Residents cleaning up the trash. For a few short hours, there was a beautiful, spontaneous symbiosis happening right in front of our eyes, and I didn’t even notice it. And that’s when it hit me…


We all long to belong, and we’re hard wired to look for connection via what we get from a community. Will I be accepted? Am I invited in? Are they kind? How will I be treated? Will they get me? Will they make a place for what I bring to the table? We define successful belonging by the way others are willing to make way for us. What will they do for me?

But what if the secret of connection is actually found in what we’re willing to give? By how we’re willing to serve?

Maybe this gets you thinking about your own neighborhood, or maybe you just began attending a new church or started a new job. Perhaps you’re pondering feelings of isolation with your spouse or tension in your extended family (and with those dreaded holidays on the horizon, too). Maybe that connection you long for is isn’t buried in winning the relational lottery. Maybe it’s right there inside of you.

How can you meet a need? And don’t start with the glamorous stuff, try the little things that can’t be confused with ulterior motives.

Encourage someone.

Teach a class.

Write a check.


Serve hotdogs.

Put away tables.

Take someone to lunch.

What can you give? How can you serve? What can you do for the community?

Maybe the secret to belonging isn’t being lucky or likable enough to be invited in, but being humble and generous enough to be poured out?

2 responses to The Secret to Belonging

  1. The situation and the organization are fascinating. Your observation is profound. I wish this post were 50 pages long

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML. <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>