Looking In and Reaching Out
Bridgewater, Va. – BC’s annual “Big Question” provides a thread that connects many different parts of our academic community during the course of an entire year. It truly is a big question every year – one with no simple answers and one that each of us might respond to differently and with a unique perspective. And, by design, it is meant to make us think across a range of perspectives, from the intensely personal to broadly global.
This year’s question was no different. But especially in a year that challenged us in ways that were sadly all too familiar and also shockingly unexpected, the way we might answer just feels different. At least it does for me.
For me, the answer to this year’s big question takes two forms: one that looks in, and a second that reaches out.
We are social beings, and I believe everyone “belongs” in a community – however large or small – where they are valued and respected and wanted. We desire this kind of place and, I think, are always looking for it when it’s absent. And I suppose we should.
Where we belong, in this sense, will go by different names: home, family, my people, to name a few, but, whatever the name, it is a “place” that comforts us and makes us feel less alone. “Belonging” in this sense is about looking inward, and that “place” where we belong is about serving our needs.
My outward-looking answer to “where I belong” is very different from that place of comfort and security and tugs against the inward-looking answer. It is the place where I believe my gifts can serve others and something larger than myself. It is the place where I think I can make a difference in the lives of others – some of whom I know, but many I never will.
And, while it is a place of fulfillment, it can be a place of discomfort and struggle and disappointment at the same time. Some define this “place” as vocation or calling. Whatever and wherever it is, you know it’s a good fit, even if it’s hard work.
It turns out for me both answers are wrapped up together in the same community. It’s a place where my needs are taken care of and I think I can make a difference that matters, a difference that maybe not everyone could make. I know this makes me a very fortunate person. I know that many people, tragically, may never have a place to belong in either the selfish or the serving sense.
Where do I belong? I belong at Bridgewater College. And I am grateful.
David Bushman, President of Bridgewater College