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Our community is engaged in an important effort to create a community of belonging. This exhibition illustrates belonging through the recorded, unrehearsed, personal stories of eleven, self-selected and local participants. They were asked to share their understandings and experiences of belonging.

Voices of Belonging - Elizabeth

"You speak to be understood, and you listen to understand."

My name is Elizabeth Jackson Helton. My major is kinesiology. Before that I was a machinist. And a welder in the United States Army active duty. I was one of the first female welders in the United States Army when they first opened it up to women about 15-16 years ago. What brought me to DeKalb was my mother. My mother lived here, she worked at NIU for 10 years. She worked at the Center for Black Studies. She was very influential, and she was an impact on my life. And that was the reason why I came back.

Belonging means to me... That's kind of a tough question. Because there's many different ways to belong. You can belong to a group, you can belong to a sect, you can belong to a bar that you go to which is your favorite bar. But one thing that we also have to learn to do is belong to ourselves. Because a lot of times we belong to everything else. And we stretch ourselves so thin, that we don't remember who we are, we lose ourselves in order to create a sense of belonging. You have to be willing to understand other people, not to be right. But to understand even if what they say or do you don't necessarily agree with. One thing that my mother said is that you speak to be understood, and you listen to understand. Not to be right, not to be this or that or the third, because you fear what you don't understand. And that breeds hate, that breeds negativity, all these different things.

So instead of that, when you talk to someone, try to ask questions and see it from their point of view, even if you disagree with it. It'll allow you to understand where they're coming from. And then you'll be like,’ you know, what? We are the sum of our experiences. We are the sum of our experiences, and we can either rise above it or be a product of it.’ When you're an adult, that's up to you. But because we are the sum of our experiences, we are going to come to a different conclusion individually. So, you have to be willing to look and understand and ask questions and go deeper than what you think or what you feel because it's not about you. It's about them. So, make it about them in a good way. And then they will make it about you. It's about reciprocity. You get what you give. So, if you're giving a bunch of, ‘Oh, I don't like that,’ ‘I don't think...meh meh meh.’ Then that's what you're gonna get back. So, don't be mad.

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