By: Matthew LeBauer, LCSW
My name is Matthew LeBauer. I am a gay man, a psychotherapist and a proud donor and alumnus of Roots & Branches.
In the last two years, my sense of safety and belonging has been eroded. From shocking displays of anti-gay violence in central Denver and the increase in anti-Semitic activity around Colorado, to the efforts to undermine my community’s civil rights, the current environment is increasingly threatening. I feel it personally and I hear it from my clients.
My first impulse is to get hyper-vigilant and to be on the lookout. I risk falling into Fear. It’s easy to disconnect from those around me in an effort to stay safe. Instead, to calm my fear and take care of myself, I seek a sense of connectedness and belonging, to friends, family and community.
I imagine many of you are having a similar experience: feeling guarded, uncertain, and vigilant.
Let’s step out of our protective isolation together. Put down your phone, lift up your head, and look around. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. See the people around you. Notice the goodness, the humility; notice the same uncertainties you know well, recognize the divine in them. Notice their longing to feel understood and seen. They have the same desires you have and the same needs you long to meet.
Even when the stories of our daily lives are different, we all have the same fundamental needs. At our core, we have a need for Belonging, and when we have it, we heal and grow.
We create belonging through connections. When we feel connected, we feel safe and thrive. When we stop isolating ourselves, and embrace others, we create a comforting, reassuring sense of belonging. When we realize we share the same worries, we open ourselves to compassion. Connections are fostered in a place of vulnerability and authenticity. Belonging gives us courage, resilience, and hope. This is the healing power of Belonging.
Things around us feel uncertain and divided, but we have an opportunity to step up and push back against our society’s fracturing. Your community needs you. I need you. All of us here need the safety of belonging with you.
And when you feel the safety of connection, the power of belonging, I encourage you to tap into the compassion within you, the deep caring for those around you, to join me in building a safer, more connected community.
Matt LeBauer participated in Rose Community Foundation’s Roots & Branches Foundation in 2010-11. He originally shared these reflections during Judaism Your Way Rosh Hashanah services.
Each year, the Roots & Branches Foundation brings together a diverse, talented and community-minded group of Jewish young adults who learn and give together to make a difference in the Greater Denver community. Roots & Branches Foundation members begin their collaborative philanthropic journey by participating in a six-month program where they explore Jewish values, learn about community issues, and put the tools of strategic philanthropy to work, ultimately granting up to $50,000 together. For more information, visit the Roots & Branches Foundation page.