Guest Post

Looking at the Stars blog tour: Where Do I Belong? By Jo Cotterill

“No man is an island,” said John Donne, and I absolutely believe that. We need other people; it’s built into our genes. Being alone for too long can do peculiar things to our brains, and I say that as an introvert!
It’s a strange thing but all of us, at one time, feel that we don’t ‘fit in’ – and the feeling is uncomfortable. Even those of us who like to stand out and make our mark on society need a group of people who understand our passions and share them. In my new book, Looking at the Stars, Amina is frustrated because she isn’t allowed to go to school or exercise her imagination. She loves to make up stories and ask questions, but the ruling government wants everyone to shut up and do what they’re told – especially girls. When liberating soldiers move into the country, Amina’s family is torn apart – and yet she is finally free to do what she’s good at. Telling stories to people who have lost their homes and families brings magic and hope, and Amina is soon in demand for her stories. She feels like she belongs – and she learns a valuable lesson that everyone has something to contribute.
I grew up in a small village in Oxfordshire where everyone knew their neighbour. Then I moved to London for university, where no one knew who lived in the next flat, and if you started a conversation with someone on a bus, you were viewed with suspicion. As a child, I was a bit annoyed that everyone seemed to know our business, but as an adult, I really believe it’s important to know the people around you. Our society is very work-driven; time spent chatting to neighbours isn’t considered ‘productive’. Yet look at all the lonely people we have in society. Families no longer live in the same street but spread across the country; sometimes even across the world. So many people live without feeling they belong – and it doesn’t have to be like that.
People need people. For all kinds of reasons: practical help, good conversations, a feeling of kinship – even just a smile. And it doesn’t take much effort on our part to make people feel included. It gives YOU a good feeling too. Maybe you feel that you don’t have much to offer? You’d be wrong. Everyone has something they’re good at – even if it’s just making up stories to cheer people up.

So maybe take a moment today to strike up a chat with someone at the next desk in your office, or stop to say more than ‘good morning’ to the person who lives next door. Or volunteer to help out at your local Brownie group or charity shop. I’d love to think that there could be a little ripple of good feeling from this blog!


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