When you belong

This week our district leadership has been focusing on equity. Dr. Terrance Green led us in a remarkable time of looking at systems that were set up to oppress people and then empowering us to facilitate change. There was so much goodness from the two days, but one phrase continues to stick in my mind… you can be invited, but not feel like you belong.

When you are a suicide loss survivor (aka someone close to you killed themselves) you often search for a place to belong. It is ok if your parent dies by cancer and it is tragic if they die in an accident… but suicide… shhhhh… we just don’t talk about it.

April 2015 I did my first AFSP Overnight Walk. April 2015 was the first time I felt like I belonged in regards to my mom’s death. I could talk during the 17 miles about mom and everyone understood… not one person was uncomfortable as we walked and shared about suicide, the overwhelming feelings of guilt, and the struggle to live after our loved ones took their own life. There was an overarching feeling of not being judged and being fully accepted for who you are and your story…. as I think about it, this is why in two days I will do my fifth overnight in San Francisco.

As I reflect of this sense of belonging I craved for 15 years, I realize this was the one area where I felt like an outcast… most other areas of life I freely went in and out without any thought if I belonged… this is my privilege.

Public education has always felt like home, a safe space for me. My dad is an educator and it was part of our life. I can’t imagine not feeling like I belonged in the one place that feels so much like home… yet so many students feel this way. I spent years feeling like I didn’t belong when my mom was brought up in conversation, but my mind can’t imagine students who feel this way for eight hours a day.

I’m am fortunate I can travel to go experience a night of full acceptance once a year… many students never feel this in a place that should feel safe.

As Dr. Green reiterated, it is not our fault a system of education was built many years ago to lift a few and suppress most, but it is our responsibility to fix it.

I don’t know what it looks like or how to do it, but I know we must make public education where all students have a sense of belonging. As I learned from many many years in Sunday School… “to much who is given, much is expected.” I feel like what is expected is that in school we create a place where there is an overarching feeling of not being judged and being fully accepted for who you are and your story.

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