Monday, January 23, 2012
It Takes a Village. Seriously.
You are really not as special as you think you are. I know this sounds strange coming from one who preaches appreciation for individualization, tolerance for differences, and the living out of one’s fullest potential. Sure, you matter. Definitely, you have unique qualities to contribute to this world. Yes, you are a wonderful creation filled with the ability to love and give and laugh and live. And, I know, you have had your share of unfortunate life circumstance, but so have we all. We each matter. We each have unique qualities to contribute to this world. We each are wonderful creations filled with the ability to love and give and laugh and live. We each are special, special in our different ways.
Sometimes when I step out of my feeling of special-ness I see exactly what it is that I am. I see the connection between myself and others. I am not a separate being existing merely to grace others with my gifts. I am others. When I am quiet and still, I realize that only by holding others up do I bring life to my own world. Only by enabling, empowering, enriching do I live at all. I am only one piece of this spiritual puzzle. I am you.
Hogwash, you say? Maybe, but personally I did not get to where I am of my own accord, and I doubt that you did either.
Oh, sure. I’ve always been driven, motivated, certain of my desires and abilities. And, yes, I have plowed ahead as I made my way in life, obstacles be damned. If I had to describe myself to someone, in fact, I might choose the words determined, persistent, persevering. Still, I would have gone nowhere without the aid of others.
A man I don’t even know, and never will, paid for my first year of college. Yes, it was I who made the decision to pursue my education despite swimming upstream to do it. It was I who finished in three and a half years of actual study despite having to sit out two different semesters. It was I who never gave up despite having to transfer twice and losing much credit each time because of it. It was I who charged ahead and completed the degree when any rational person would have accepted defeat and quit. It was me, but it was that man who made it possible for me to use those gifts I was given, to do that charging ahead, to plow down those obstacles. It was he who set me up to do all that persisting and persevering. It was that man.
It takes a village to raise a child. Many people believe this. I hear it all over the place. I don’t think many follow through on it, though. Think about it. Did you personally feed anyone this past week that doesn’t live in your own home? Did you help to clothe them, to keep them warm? Did you support a parent by watching a child so the parent could go to work to get money to get food to feed that child? Did you read to a child you didn’t birth or help conceive? Did you give her a ride to school or extracurricular activities because the parent couldn’t afford the gas to get her there? Did you help to pay for her education? Well? Did you?
I know. You worked hard for your money. Nobody handed it to you. You went out, and you got it. You paid for your OWN education. But did you have a loving family who supported your decisions, who encouraged you to go to school, who provided a warm home with a warm meal? Did you have parents who sat on the bench clapping and cheering at every game, meet, match, event? Did you have your basic physical needs met every day, not just some days, but EVERY day? Did you?
A friend shared that, growing up, her father spent his days rummaging through dumpsters to find food to take back home to his sisters and brothers. He also was made to steal maxi-pads for his mother. He was eight. My kids were dueling in Battle of the Books when they were eight, competing against fellow students in a mock war of literature comprehension and retention. I bought my own tampons. With money.
I know. That parent should maybe make different choices, kick out the child molesting boyfriend, stop spending money she doesn’t have on beer or gambling or drugs and use it instead on food. She should get a job. Think on this. Whatever choice the parent may have, and I stress MAY, that child has no choice, none. That child cannot go get a job. That child cannot kick out the alcoholic, physically abusing boyfriend. That child cannot go get food or shoes or a decent place to live. That child is completely at the mercy of the village. That child, unless the village shows up, stands absolutely no chance of getting out of that environment. What she does stand a chance of is being ridiculed as an adult for not providing for her children, for not doing something with her life, for not getting a job like everyone thinks a responsible adult should. What that child stands a real good chance of is repeating the cycle into which she is born, a cycle of ridicule and humiliation and self-esteem crushing defeat.
What happens when we step outside our own greed, when we acknowledge that we are one, that we are brothers and sisters in this spiritual family? What happens? Well. We become the village. We lift up those children. We create amazing change. We create opportunity. It is because of such opportunity, in fact, that I am teaching today. It is because I am teaching that others may create a better life for themselves, that others may break that cycle, that others may help others to break that cycle. Very likely I have taught YOUR child. Possibly, even, I have taught YOU. My friend’s father? Well. If you were to take your own child to the hospital at a time when he needs physical care that you are not trained to provide for him, if you were to take him to the hospital in a time of need such as this, you would find yourself thankful for that village. You find yourself thankful that someone showed up in her father’s time of need, that someone showed up in his time of need so that he could show up in yours.