Human beings are unique animals. A sense of love and belonging is integral to our well-being. Belonging even appears in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. No matter how different we are or how different our backgrounds, we all have a common need to belong to a group – our own clan, culture or society.
Last month, I was lucky enough to attend a civic dinner for over 130 guests hosted by the One Region initiative at Welcoming America. As we dined on delicious Mediterranean food by refugee-owned catering company Suryana Cuisine, the guided discussion focused on the topic of belonging. We discussed prompts like “describe a time when you felt like you didn’t belong or witnessed someone else struggling to find a sense of belonging in a community.”
The conversation was profound. Part of that was due to the location at the Clarkston Community Center. Clarkston is well-known for being welcoming and for its rich diversity, with large immigrant and refugee populations. My table alone had individuals from Mexico, Sudan and Togo. But despite our different backgrounds, our answers to the question prompts were all startlingly similar. We discovered that we had all moved around a great deal (admittedly, my moving was just within the United States) but we were all raising families here, working to shape a sense of community. We had all made Atlanta a place where we belong – our home.
Our last question to discuss was “what ideas do you have to foster a stronger sense of belonging within your community?” My answer was simple – talk to people! In day-to-day life, it’s so easy to get caught up in our own bubbles and networks. Our own friend groups, Facebook groups and neighborhoods. The chance to break bread (or enjoy ridiculously tasty hummus) and have a conversation is invaluable.
I don’t make it up to Clarkston often, so my civic dinner was a meaningful way to expand my bubble through a shared experience with some really cool people. The ladies at my table were astounding. They were kind, resilient, thoughtful and wickedly funny. I’ll be back to Clarkston soon – I have a list of restaurant recommendations to work my way through.
Civic Dinners are simple. One person chooses to host a meal with a diverse group of six to 10 people. The host then picks the topic and provides the food. Easy, right? Learn more about the Civic Dinner movement here.
The One Region initiative is a program of Welcoming America that seeks to create an inclusive metro Atlanta region in which all people, including immigrants and refugees, have the opportunity to reach their greatest potential, engage with the larger community and fully contribute their talents – expanding prosperity and well-being for all. Learn more here.
Note: This piece originally appeared in the Saporta Report.