In the poem, We and They, by Rudyard Kipling, an English author, and winner of the 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote, “…All the people like us are We, And everyone else is They.”
Much of life seems to be divided by We and They. “We go to NJC; They go to CSU.” “We are Presbyterians; They are Catholics.” “We live in Colorado; They live in Texas.” “We’re Denver Broncos; They’re Kansas City Chiefs.” “We’re liberal; They’re
conservative.” “We’re Black; They’re white.” “We’re Irish; They’re Scottish.” “We struggle for basic needs; They live privileged.”
Words from the hundred-year-old poem, We and They, well and simply describe many conflicts, racial and otherwise, within our country and
ourselves. We and They seem to mimic belonging and exclusion.
Remember, We and They reverse when walking in another’s shoes. We are someone else’s They. They are someone else’s We.
Belonging is a human need, just like food and shelter. Belonging adds value to life and helps us withstand painful emotions. Lack of belonging, exclusion, can lead to loneliness, pain, and conflict. Italians, Asians, Russian Germans, and Jews, just to name a few, naturally create communities around the world because of common culture, language, or experiences.
My dad was a veteran of WWII, so growing up, my family’s We included playing and vacationing with other veterans. My personal We included gatherings with farmwives,teachers, Catholics, and mental health counselors. We had similar backgrounds and interests.
Belonging has benefits—invited to a birthday party or coffee with friends and sharing everyday language, careers, and memories. Even though opposites attract, differences divide, and commonalities connect.
A friend once told me her first-grade teacher named reading groups after birds. She was only six, but knew the difference between a sparrow her brothers shot in the barn and an eagle; rank, and therefore skill level and prestige, were determined by the title.
We and They are hierarchical. Think about government, churches, school systems, banks, families, and the pecking order of insects and animals. It is what we know and treasure. We fight to be free of what They represent or what We don’t want to share. They fight to be equal, elevated or understood.
The risk when We and They converge involves fear. We fear the loss of power or prestige, and They fear rejection, retaliation, or failure. We can float along because life is good. They can never stop trying because life is hard.
Closing with a quote by Albert Einstein, a German-born physicist who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
For universal mental wellness, let US do something, even if it is only strengthening awareness.
Until the next time: Live while you live.
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