Thursday, November 12, 2009

It Takes a Village

The saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," is becoming increasingly popular. Experts on child development tell us how important it is for children to have a variety of positive influences and role models in their young lives. They need encouragement, support, and guidance from multiple sources. Having several caring adults in their lives will diversify their education and provide a stronger foundation for them as they grow up.

I don't think children are the only ones who benefit from the village, however. Growing up doesn't erase the need we have for other people in our lives. As an adult, I still need emotional support and guidance from a variety of caring sources. As a Christian, I need to be connected to other Christians who will help me on my faith journey. So many facets of our culture promote independence as part of growing up, but I sometimes think we take that idea too far. When we isolate ourselves, we only make our problems bigger and deprive ourselves of resources that could help us find and employ solutions. None of us can be expected to deal with everything in our lives completely on our own. I need people with knowledge and skills that differ from mine to help me when I'm out of my depth. I also need the strength of others when my strength alone is not sufficient. Where would I be without doctors, pastors, or family members?

All too often, the American macho standard for life seems to go something like this:
  1. Try to do everything you can completely on your own.
  2. Ask for help only if you're absolutely sure you can't do it on your own (often after several failed attempts).
  3. Only ask people for help if they are beholden to you for some reason or if you can repay them in some way. Make sure it's clear that the other person was either obligated to help you or will be repaid in full so you don't have to feel guilty for imposing on them.
  4. Don't tell anyone that you had to ask for help and pretend it never happened.
  5. Go back to trying to do everything on your own again. Try to make up for having had to accept help by being stronger in the future.
In our culture of "self-made men" it seems admirable to be able to take care of things ourselves. But none of those "self-made-men" are really completely self-made. They all had people who contributed to their success—investors, customers, colleagues, family members, friends, employees, etc. All of us need help sometimes, so it's time to stop being in denial about it. Humans are social creatures, and it's in our nature to interact with each other. We're supposed to connect and to empathize and to contribute. Community is part of who we are, and it's one of our greatest strengths, not a weakness. The more people we connect with, the larger the array of resources at our disposal. Using our resources to help others also helps us to grow and develop. The give and take of community is good for everyone involved.

As a Christian, I understand that I am part of the Body of Christ, a group made up of countless believers. Being part of such a huge group is an awesome gift. Yes, I do have responsibilities to the other members because I am part of the group, but they're also going to look out for me. When I have problems, there are people who are going to pray for me. When I am sick or mourning, there will be people to comfort me, visit me, and bring me meals. When I need professional advice, one of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ may be able to help me out. When I'm struggling in a relationship, a wise friend may be able to offer a useful perspective. I don't have to do my work or live a Christian life all on my own. It's OK for me to ask for help, even as an adult. It's OK for me to cry on someone's shoulder or to ask for guidance or to accept advice. God wants us to help each other, not to struggle through life on our own. There is no pride in standing alone, because doing so will only deprive us of the chance to grow from interacting with others.

It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to support a healthy Christian. I thank God every day for my village.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Does that make us the village people?

Sorry - couldn't help it.

Actually, I thank all that's holy for you, for your place in my village too. Even if I don't totally qualify as a Christian, my place in your circle of support and love, and yours in mine, is hugely important to me, something I truly cherish.


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