A Sense of Belonging

I was watching Invincible Friday afternoon because my mood lately has been a prime mood for what Disney Plus classifies as an inspirational sports movie. Invincible is the story of Vince Papale, a bartender from south Philly who goes to open tryouts for the Eagles and makes the team. A lot of the movis is about how much south Philly needed him and the Eagles during a time when factory workers were striking and out of a job. The depiction of south Philly and the camaraderie there reminded me of a couple of TV shows I have watched.

Back when Justified was on TV I found myself watching the scenes in eastern Kentucky with longing. The scenes that gave me the sense f longing were generally the ones of the large, extended families being together on the family land. These families were generally criminals. I assumed that the longing was more for the state of Kentucky and not a longing to be part of a criminal family.

That assumption fell apart when I watched Shameless and felt the same thing. Shameless is about a family who lives on the South Side of Chicago. They have a lit of problems and have no problem with breaking the law to get what they want. Did my sense of longing actually mean I wanted to be in a family of criminals? It did not.

What these three have in common is the portrayal of a sense of community and belonging. This sense of community and belonging survived economic turmoil and criminal enterprise. The characters lacked financial stability and, in some cases, morals, but they had a place where they belonged. They had family and friends who stood by them in the tough times. They had a circle of support. They had community.

My longing didn’t come from a desire to be a criminal, it came from a desire for community. The suburban sprawl where I lie can make community hard, especially when you are not a people person. I wirte recently about how I had a yearning for home. I have no family here besides my wife and kids. I can be out and about in my area and never see one person I know. I don’t really know my neighbors. I spend the majority of my time at home with whoever is living in the house at the time. I want the sense of community you can find in some small towns and neighborhoods. It is harder to find here.

I know there are things I could do to change this. I had a sense of community for a while at my old church. I worked with the youth group and felt a connection to them, their families and the other youth workers. Things changed and I changed churches and have not made the effort to really feel like I belong there. I could change that. I felt a sense of community during some youth sports and dance. Those are gone now that the kids are adults.

I am impressed with the fact that these shows did such a good job with a sense of place and belonging that it made me want to live there.

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