We Are the Village
Several years ago Jacob Devaney penned: “No matter how old we are, we are children of ‘the village’, the community that raised us and supported us helped to shape the way we see the world.” Many of us had nurturing families in which we lived but many others did not. Regardless of the family unit or lack thereof, the community around us was our village. Pam Leo explains that How we treat the child, the child will grow up to treat the world.”
This is not a new concept. What we know of ancient civilizations is based upon the archaeological finds of their communities. The shards of pottery tell us how and what they ate. Pieces of ancient tools help understand how they lived and in what types of abodes. The community is as much a vital part of our living as the air we breathe.
“It takes a village to raise a child” is an Igbo and Yoruba proverb that exists in many different African languages. It reflects the emphasis African cultures place on family and community and may have its origins in a biblical worldview. This proverb is so widely used in Africa that there are equivalent statements in most African languages, including “One knee does not bring up a child” in Sukuma and “One hand does not nurse a child” in Swahili. The widespread use of this proverb by cultures around the world shows its timelessness and relevancy. The saying is used in America to evoke feelings of community on the small scale as well as on the national and even global scale.
Some believe the proverb may have its origins in the Bible, since it reflects a worldview regarding unity and self-sacrifice expressed in several passages of the Bible, such as Ecclesiastes 4:9,12 and Isaiah 49:15-16. This worldview is commonly seen in African cultures today. In many African communities it is common for a child to be raised by its extended family, in many cases spending extended periods of time living with grandparents, aunts and uncles. Even the wider community sometimes gets involved, as children are seen as a blessing from God upon the entire community. We could debate for hours which came first – the Biblical scriptures or the African communities. One thing is certain – We need community.
Robin Grille is an Australian psychologist and writer who has authored “Parenting for a Peaceful World”. He encourages parents and the community to consider how our daily lives are influencing our children. A fractured society cannot be an effective community. We must work together and be supportive in order for the future generations to understand how to form, grow, and continue the concept of community.
Health and fitness coach Jen Waak believes there are six vital reasons for us to grow community. First there is the concept of Collective wisdom. No one person ever has all of the answers, consulting with experts is always going to give you better information. Secondly, life pushes our limits. When working alone, it’s oftentimes too easy to give up when things get hard. By surrounding yourself with others working toward a similar goal or objective, you’ll get motivation, support, and friendly competition to push yourself just a bit further than you would have done on your own.
Support and belief are the third reason for developing community. Some days those big goals just seem impossible. On those days when you most want to give up, you need to lean on your community the most. They believe in you—probably more than you belief in yourself. Next, there is the need for new ideas. When you are working within a community of like-minded people, the wisdom of crowds is considerably greater than any one person working alone. Our divergent world views and lenses mean that we all approach the exact same problem slightly differently.
Fifth, communities offer borrowed motivation. Even on those days when your belief in yourself isn’t waning, doing what needs to get done can often seem overwhelming. Look around your community and be inspired! Lastly, we need community because there is the need for accountability. If you’re an uber-responsible person, you may not want to admit to people you care about who are pulling for you that something didn’t get done. There’s nothing like having to be accountable to others to up your game. Allowing others to help is hard, but it ultimately raises everyone’s game.
Khalil Gibran spoke of this concept of community and children, the need for the village to be a sustainable community in this poem.
“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”
An old African folksong asks “Who is watching the children?…It Takes a whole village to raise a child.” It takes a community to grow a world. Hopefully this month we have all realized the need to be communal and in community with each other. I will let Idowu Koyenikan on this month’s topic of Growing community: “There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests gets together to work toward the same goals.”