We ALL need The Village

“It takes a village to raise a child”

This phrase is so well known it’s almost hackneyed, and gets trotted out when parents receive support from other people, enabling them to better raise their children. Whether it’s hand-me-down clothes, useful equipment, solicited advice, a cooked meal during a frantic time, or the offer of some babysitting so that the overwhelmed mother and/or father can have some time out…there are so many vital ways a community of friends-and-relations can be involved (to a certain degree) in the raising of a child.

As children get older and parents become more used to being parents, and more capable, The Village tends to step back in when there’s a crisis, but no longer in the same, burgeoning way they did when the child was a baby and the parents still new to the job.

Once children are teenagers, The Village seems to take another step back, telling them they’re too old to join in trick-or-treating. That they shouldn’t be wearing hoodies and congregating in town centres because they’re intimidating. That their music is too loud, too aggressive, and too downright peculiar to be enjoyable. That their clothes are outrageous, their trends are silly, and that they need to start bucking their ideas up and starting to behave more like Grown Ups.

For young adults, The Village seems to drop off the map, and it’s only when they settle down to behave like Real Adults by having offspring, that it comes back into play and offers support.

This is a vast over-generalisation, I know, but to all intents and purposes, that seems to be the Way of the World At Large. In the West, anyway.

But here’s the thing: I’ve spent an evening broken to pieces, with my spirit in shreds, because of some of the things I’ve seen or heard about, which show where The Village has failed.

Individuals have failed, too, with harrowing and deadly results:

An eight year-old boy died, malnourished, weighing only SEVENTEEN pounds.

A five year-old girl was thrown off a bridge by her father. She’s dead.

A ten day-old baby was kidnapped, killed, and stuffed in a trash bag.

And these are only the instances which have made the headlines. Many, many more go unreported, or worse, undiscovered. Children are being killed in the most horrific of ways.

Where was The Village? Why was it silent in these cases? Who didn’t notice a young boy was the weight of a 6 month-old? How come the girl’s father didn’t have friends or family or someone to reach out to, if he was struggling so badly? Why wasn’t anything noticed and DONE about the disturbing behaviour or lack of empathy apparent in people who possess the awful capacity to kill children?

What’s happened to The Village?

It’s standing at the bus-stop, whispering about ‘that older mom’ and giggling behind its hand, instead of including her.

It’s looking down its nose at those who feed their kids junk, because fresh fruit and vegetables are too expensive.

It’s preoccupied with not interfering or overstepping the mark or getting outside its comfort zone to make connections and make a difference.

It’s busy supporting the policy-given right of teachers to offer their students learning experiences which their parents are unhappy with.

It’s determined that the ‘rights of the father’ trump personal testimonies to convict an abusive man, thereby refusing to protect his children from exposure to his terrible influence.

It’s stand-offish. It’s judgy. It errs too much on the side of political correctness.

It sucks.

There are pockets of it which exist, and those who are surrounded by The Village (when it’s working well) are graced with some incredible levels of support, solidarity, and good old-fashioned Look After-ing, but it seems too scant, too unfocussed, and far, far short of influential enough to prevent awful things from happening.

At all levels of my life, I’ve needed The Village. When I was a child, in an abusive household, isolated and trapped. When I was a teen, depressed and lonely and drifting. When I was a young adult, exploited and naive and believing the lies which ensnared me.

Where was The Village? Was it somewhere ‘Out There’, but just trying to mind its own business?

It’s only NOW, as a (sort of) Grown Up – struggling with anxiety, miscarriage, my chronically-ill spouse, and a whole lot of demons which have latched onto me in the Village-less years – that I HAVE my Village.

I need it. I am thoroughly blessed by it. I am so, so grateful.

But in many ways I’ve had to go out and get it. Had I left The Village to its own devices instead of reaching out and grabbing it, I (and quite possibly Husby) would both be long gone; succumbed to our conditions.

I wonder who (besides our nearest and dearest) would have noticed. Or cared.

The evening I wrote this, I was able to send tear-stained messages of deep pain and hopelessness to members of my Village. I was met with compassion, concern, and suggestions of ways I might make things a little better. I was heard and comforted. I was not alone.

And it’s what we all need, whatever stage of life – we need to know we’re not alone.

Whether we’re the child who is too young to protect themselves;

Whether we’re the kid whose world is hungry, and whose parents seem just not to know about things like nutrition or cleanliness;

Whether we’re the person trapped in a violent relationship, who fears for their life;

Whether we’re the person too close to the edge, who needs to offload in a safe manner before they do something terrible;

We need to know that someone, somewhere, has noticed and that they CARE.

Which makes US the village, and it’s a job we need to be more careful about getting right. We need to keep a look-out for one another, let ourselves care about strangers, act on behalf of those who are helpless, and encourage everyone we know to do the same.

If we make our Village strong enough perhaps the heartbreak headlines will become fewer. Perhaps people will behave more responsibly, knowing that others are keeping an eye on them. Perhaps there will be more respect for one another, and a soul-deep recognition of each person as someone worthwhile. Perhaps the world will become kinder and more compassionate.

Perhaps it will all be okay…

Because together we’re stronger, and between us all, we CAN make a difference. Perhaps the difference between life and death. It would be a great start, so I challenge you to try.

These are stormy times.

Get out there and BE the village.

Be The Village

Come and JOIN US: 1000 Voices for Compassion – we’re going to FLOOD the Blogosphere with GOOD

187 thoughts on “We ALL need The Village

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  17. Hi Lizzy,
    I also wonder about all the bad things you wrote about too and what can be done. After spending weeks trying to work out what to write for 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, I wrote about compassion fatigue, partly because I was so overwhelmed with topic options that I realised just how much needs to be done but also that I am not Atlas and the weight of the world doesn’t solely rest on my shoulders. We can share the load. that said, that shouldn’t be used as a cop out so that people fall through the cracks.
    I will be doing a post or series of posts over the next days to share posts from today.
    Here’s a link to my post Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/compassion-fatigue-a-light-bulb-moment/
    You can be very proud of how the campaign has gone and how a couple of people can get together and make a difference. Well done!!! Don’t forget that!
    You would love to know that we had a huge rainbow here today for our UN Day of Social Justice. We head out hunting the rainbow down to the beach, having stopped home to pick up my camera. True to the fleetingness of rainbows it had all but faded by the time we arrived but it was a magical moment! xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhhh rainbows are tricksy things. Lovely that you got to see one, though. Compassion fatigue is worth writing about, definitely. I’ve had that. and it leaves me uncomfortable when it happens.

      I have no particular pride in the campaign – I’m pleased with it, of course, and absolutely thrilled to pieces at how well it’s going, but I don’t think it was ME, particularly. Yvonne had the idea and EVERYONE has pulled it off together. It’s been a real team effort. I love it 🙂

      Like

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  32. I think people are worried about rocking the boat and making waves. Like if you go to a party and see one of your drunken pals is about to head out into the night, it’s socially awkward to step in and wrestle the keys away from that impaired individual. Instead of looking negatively at the person who is actually doing something wrong, often bystanders will instead look negatively at the person making all the fuss. When we all know a kid is being smacked around, nobody wants to make that call. Because the person who takes the call is the one turning a “private” issue which would hopefully resolve itself into a “thing”. Nobody likes “things”. It’s uncomfortable. Also, the person who steps up and does face the issue despite the social awkwardness becomes the responsible party for righting the wrong. Which means following up and seeing that things continue to go well after the fact. Now it’s not only an awkward, uncomfortable “thing” — it’s a job, too.

    I say all this because it frustrates me to hell. I’m a village. I look less at the perpetrators of atrocity than I do at those who allow it. To me, the bystanders are more guilty, because they’re more worried about getting home in time for dinner, or not getting involved, or avoiding the scrutiny of their peers, than they are in the safety and protection of each other. Malice and ignorance {or both} I can understand. Ambivalence? Laziness? Fear? These things are inexcusable.

    You are absolutely right that we need to become the village. We need to get over our damn selves. We need to take on the job and do the “thing” and stand out in the crowd and rock boats and make waves and, when we have foreknowledge, stop bad things from happening. On my way now to check out the 1000 voices link thing. Hoping it’s not too late to get involved. I’m guessing it’s never too late to add my voice to the village.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s never too late to add your voice to the village, and I think in you we will have a thoroughly good addition to the cause.

      Bystanders are implicit. I remember the most compelling and jarringly awful ad I saw about domestic violence had the ‘bystanders’ in the woman’s life as the ones who were beating her…because they saw and did nothing, they were almost as bad as the one doing the hitting.

      I’m so glad you added this thought 🙂 Thank you.

      Like

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  42. Ms Lizzi I thought I read this a week ago and commented I guess not well I did read it , lately i have been reading blogs at my lunch break I probably did not have the time to comment – here is my comment although i have strong family bond – both hubby and I are living proof that ” a village” at times is truly helpful when we met our children we hosted them, about ten minutes from our home the next town over a single woman hosted a boy, the summer before we hosted a couple in another town not far from our house hosted two brothers, all of our children came from the same orphanage we get together as a group quite often, we also have a girls night out occasionally – we have helped each other, rallied for one another, they are my support; we support one another, but more importantly what i truly hope that we did or are doing is help all of us – what i mean by Us is the adults and our children.

    I think our children have benefited as well.

    1000 Voices Speak For Compassion is something these times need desperately I am sure you seen that I have not been writing lately… the holidays are so hard for me – this year especially the headlines, the travesty, the hatred it is all too much –

    Compassionate Voices can work – love to be part of this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES Marisa – come on over to facebook and join in. Your voice will be so important, especially as your experience of The Village has been so fundamental to the function of your family life. I’m so glad that they were there for you when you needed them. That’s awesome 🙂

      Like

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