A sense of belonging is not just desirable—it is a very necessary part of life. Abraham Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs, places it just above security and safety needs. It isn’t one of those “how long can you live without…” needs, nor is it a security concern. But it is vital to the quality of life. You can’t just exist—that isn’t living.

When people were asked what they missed most during the pandemic of 2020, the most frequent answer was “hugs”. We were still connected via zoom, phone, email, etc. But what was missing was the physical touch, for obvious reasons. Smile were seen only through the eyes. Handshakes were replaced by fist and elbow bumps. We had communication but sometimes we lacked connection. 

Families had to avoid large gatherings. We didn’t have our annual family campout at the beach last year, partly because of the large gathering shutdowns, but also because the campgrounds were closed. After over 30 years of doing it every year that was a big loss. Singles had it rougher because they were more isolated. At least for couples, like my wife and I, we had each other and though we were largely stuck at home, we share the same space and the same hugs.

Though the expressions of love and belonging are much easier with physical contact, don’t let that be a barrier. Be open to others and demonstrate your concern in both word and deed. Let them know that you care and that they belong. And let yourself be open to realize that you belong––open your ears and eyes to those around you as they reach out to you. 

We all need belonging and that is why it is one of Pete Buttigieg’s Rules of the Road

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