I will be writing a separate post about my experiences while volunteering with Ronald McDonald house this weekend. This post is in regards to an observation I made while interacting with the group I volunteered with.
Last week I reached out to a girlfriend about volunteer opportunities. Specifically, if she had suggestions on any I would maybe enjoy. I was unsure whether she volunteers or not but knowing her as well as I do I had a feeling she probably did. I was right. She mentioned that her bible study group had plans to cook a meal for the Ronald McDonald house over the weekend and invited me to join them. I did not hesitate to reply with an enthusiastic yes! This is an organization I have been interested in for a while but was unsure how to offer help. I was excited to have the opportunity now.
It was a great experience. I came home feeling fulfilled and full of purpose as I do after volunteering.
This evening Todd and I decided to go to dinner. Today was technically the anniversary of our engagement so we decided to use that as an excuse not to cook. (I was uninterested in being in another hot kitchen after spending two hours in one earlier in the day). Over dinner we were discussing the books we are both currently reading then we got on to the topic of documentaries. He was filling me in on a religious documentary he recently watched and that led into our next discussion.
I need to set up this next discussion for you by giving some background.
Something that I really enjoyed today that was different from other times I have volunteered was the fact that I was part of a group. Today I was working alongside like minded individuals interested in the greater good. The conversation was stimulating, the positive energy shared among the group was infectious, it felt really nice not only to give of myself but feel apart of something within this group. After our work was done we went to lunch together and the conversations continued. I really enjoyed the company of my friend and her friends. The only detail that really made me feel separate from the group was the religion factor. As this was my friend’s bible study group at times discussion of religion would come up, which I am completely comfortable with but I just do not happen to relate with. Some of her friends shared specific stories regarding their faith which I could totally identify with, I was easily able to empathize with the feeling of taking a leap of faith and having to trust that things will work out. None of these feeling are attached to religion for me though. For me these scenarios involved faith in myself or others, conviction in my decisions and believing in my abilities.
At the end of our time together more than one of her friends eagerly encouraged me to join their bible study group, commenting on how I am exactly the kind of person they would love to have involved. I thanked them and told them how much I appreciated them including me in their group today and how much I enjoyed myself as well as their company. I never did mention that I am a nonbeliever. It goes back to being in the closet. I do not deny my feelings on religion when asked directly what they are but I also do not broadcast my beliefs (or what some would consider lack there of). There are a few reasons for this, one is appropriateness. I was raised and still do believe that it is inappropriate to discuss controversial topics openly with anyone who you are not intimately acquainted with, and even then appropriateness might be questionable.
I did not mind at all that religion and God were open topics over lunch today as I was the outsider crashing their church event, however I did not choose to comment on anything religious in nature. I kept my responses neutral and genuine to what my relatable experiences have been. ‘
So back to dinner with Todd. This is not the first time I have had these thoughts and feelings but as a nonbeliever/humanist I do feel that I/we (we being any nonbeliever not specifically just Todd and myself) miss out on the element of community and involvement one gets when affiliated with a Church/Temple/Synagogue/Mosque etc.
I do feel connected and a sense of camaraderie among those I have met that share my views but it certainly is not the same as the experiences I had when involved with church as a preteen. There was absolutely a sense of community and interconectivity. There was a place for me to be with people of like values and be apart of meaningful activities. Every summer I was involved with whatever musical the youth group was putting on. It gave me a sense of purpose when not in school and gave me something constructive to do. We would beach trips and service work to do. I liked feeling apart of something worthwhile and do feel like I am missing that.
The thing is I know in my heart that I am not the only nonbeliever that feels this way. As a humanist (a label I am still deciding if I want) my interest in the betterment of humanity I feel lends itself to wanting to feel a connection to others and the world. I would love to have meetings for an hour or two with like minded people to discuss science, culture, literature and social issues as well as global issues. I do not think theism needs to have anything to do with it.
I guess I do feel a bit left out. And if that is what it means to be able to keep my convictions I am willing to accept that, just not quite yet. I do feel like there is more to be had and am hoping that in my travels this “more” I seek will come about organically as I feel all good things do. Living in College Park has helped with these feelings. There is a strong sense of community thanks to block parties and local events that encourage everyone to get out and get involved. Ultimately I have a lot of life left to live and a lot of people yet to meet.