Humans need one and only one thing to function successfully: belonging.
Note that it’s not enough to find one group or another who’s willing to “take you in” as a member; it only works if you belong in every sense of the word—that is to say, if there is some measure of similarity in values, habits of thought, levels of capability, etc. Belonging generates and supports identity, but it is also enabled and constrained only by identity.
It’s also not enough to “belong” in atomic ways—to belong to one person here and one person there, in a fragmented social miasma that doesn’t rise to the level of a group or a network. A social aggregate can’t sustain belonging, only a social body can. Belonging, in other words, must be more than a matter of location; it must be justified, intelligible, called for in some sense.
To someone like myself that is struggled for a lifetime to find belonging—not for want of trying or for lack of social interaction and people around me—it is edifying and comforting to see my children find it. It makes me want to issue a warning to parents: all the achievement in the world, all the love in the world, cannot make up for a sense of belonging. If your child finds it, do nothing to upset it. It is the primary, and perhaps only, determinant of success and happiness in life.
When a child is able to say, “I am one of them and they are those like—and for—me,” the negative effects that accrue from all the rest of existence and its suffering are rendered largely moot.
And as for me… Forty-two years and countless people and places in, the quest continues.