The importance of belonging


I was invited to speak at our local Rotary Club early in February. This was an invitation to come and talk about Horizon Athletic and building something I had dreamed about beginning for a long time.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, Horizon Athletic is a training space located at 150 W. East St. that I began in December. The mission of Horizon Athletic is to provide physical training for youth athletes in our area looking to improve their skills.

I wanted to provide a service that offered committed training for athletes wanting to put in extra work and focus.

The presentation I gave was focused a lot on the basis of what my career had taught me through working in a gym environment. That would be a sense of belonging.

Belonging is an affinity for a place or a situation.

In gym culture, members or clientele grow a bond with the atmosphere that is cultivated. Each place has its own type of identity or personality, and we build our strength around that. It formulates friendship, camaraderie, and energy where we feel safe to sweat.

I’ve always been perplexed by one question. How do we get people to change their perspective? Quite specifically, how do we make an effective change of attitude towards a community?

Washington Court House, to me, has always been a treasure. It’s the town I was born in and spent the first few months of my life on Cherry Street. I grew up in Bloomingburg and lived a regular childhood.

Not everyone has the same attitude that I have. Many people struggle and think the greater opportunity is elsewhere. While this can often be true, my own lessons are that opportunities happen where you create them.

That comes more from a state of mind than an exact location. I suppose I’ve always had a sense of belonging since I’ve lived here. I don’t quite know why, but this community has always felt like home to me. I have so many good memories that I don’t give up on, and I want them to be passed on to younger generations as well.

I believe you can have a future here. It just takes some work.

In a Forbes article titled “The Importance of Belonging: Missing your People,” it states that “Belonging is a fundamental part of being human: We need people and this need is hardwired into our brains.”

A recent MIT study found we crave interactions in the same region of our brains where we crave food, and another study showed we experience social exclusion in the same region of our brain where we experience physical pain.

The greatest need for a sense of belonging is within other people. Not just in that we need each other, but also that we need each other at our best and with a generally hopeful mindset.

My personal approach to this has been to be an open-minded listener. From here, I seem to be able to truly hear what a person is saying without formulating an opinion. It seems that a person can sift through their own thoughts and find their own solutions.

This helps them feel empowered and we receive the strength to go onward. Providing strength is something I’ve always felt a purpose with. When I do this day in and day out, pretty or ugly, I feel a sense of belonging where I live and notice improvements in my day-to-day life where I am at at the moment.

Trey Tompkins is a local fitness expert who writes columns for the Record-Herald.

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