Finding Belonging 

07/02/2024 12:18 PM Comment(s) By Jburns

Belonging can happen in the most unsuspecting places.

Last month I volunteered to help check in campers at the camp I used to work at while in college. My children grew up going to this camp. My daughter is currently on staff as a counselor and head of the ropes course. It was incredible to feel all the excitement and energy as the kids were getting ready to spend a week at the residential summer camp, some for the very first time. The anticipation was palpable for both parents and campers. 

It took me back to a happy time; this was the place where I first felt like I wholly and truly belonged.  That all my energy, exuberance, loudness and unique brand of weird was not only accepted, but also encouraged.  It was the summer after my sophomore year in college and I was so excited to travel to Colorado to work at a residential summer camp. I was going to be a camp counselor, work with kids and spend the summer in the woods of the foothills outside of Denver.

I didn’t realize it at the time but the sense of belonging I found at that camp would provide a grounding and profoundly positive sense of direction for my life.  After graduating college with a degree in Business and Psychology, I would eventually find my way to becoming a camp director for kids and adults with disabilities after going to grad school. I share this because sometimes we never know how those deeply impactful experiences will change the course of our lives. 

Over the course of the last year, I’ve been working with a coach who encouraged me to map out my values and weed them down to five that I could spit out at a moment’s notice.  This would be the foundation for my business and all my decisions.  I’m a big fan of Brene’ Brown and her values driven business model. After some good and challenging conversations, along with a few tears, I was able to create a collage with my 5 values represented by something tangible that had meaning for me. 

Belonging landed squarely in my top 5 and I chose the staff picture from camp, back when I was 19, to represent it.  It has great meaning for me.  What I realized was that not only was belonging important to me, but it was imperative that I help develop spaces and places that created opportunities for belonging for others.  Before I read “The Art of Gathering” by Priya Parker, I was trying to create fun, inviting , safe and engaging spaces for the programs and people I served. 

So, when I saw those smiling and some shy faces of those kiddos checking in, I sincerely hoped that they too would find a sense of belonging among the trees, the cabins, the other campers, the staff and the activities at that magical place called camp.

Where’s the place that you feel like you belong? Is it in your community, a friend group, a place where you volunteer, in a recreation activity, in your work or is it in some other place that calls deeply to your true self?

Bloggers Note:  I realize that for some folks the word “camp” does not invoke fun or happy experiences. Apologies if this is the case for you. 


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