Do you belong? Do you help others feel that they belong? What does that mean to you?

Last fall, I heard Dr. Erik Carter speak at events in High River and Calgary. His words were powerful, and his position is that there are ten dimensions to belonging. A pronouncement that “Everyone is welcome” is not enough. True inclusiveness and belonging requires much more.

Dr. Carter challenges us to ask the following questions about people with disabilities and their families. I think the concepts can be extended to anyone. Here are the ten increasing dimensions of belonging he puts forth. Are individuals:

  1. Present
  2. Invited – personally, not a global invitation
  3. Welcomed
  4. Known – as individuals
  5. Accepted – beyond tolerated
  6. Supported
  7. Cared for
  8. Befriended
  9. Needed – we miss you when you’re not here
  10. Loved

I invite you to consider the people in your life that seemed quite different from you when you first encountered them. I suspect that the more you got to know them, the further along this spectrum you progressed – and the more similarities you saw and the less the differences mattered.

When have you felt that you belonged? Where on this spectrum did you feel you sat? When have you invited others into your world? How far into your world? Where on this spectrum did that relationship sit?

I challenge you to think about this concept as the holiday season winds down.

Dr. Carter is Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt, and his website can be found at