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It takes a village

I firmly believe to be the most functional, the most successful “It takes a village”. I recently read an article about the village-less 30 somethings lamenting about the absence of the village in today’s world. I reflect on this every time a holiday goes by and we don’t have a family to celebrate with or anyone to call and check on us. We would love to have friends over for a drink or board game, but everyone is too busy running their whole lives with minimal support. I have felt village-less for much of my adult life. I was on my own at 16, and have collected people here and there, but I don’t have a village. I have a clear understanding of being a ‘social’ orphan, although America is a MUCH better place to be one.

Having a large family was a vehicle for me to replace the family I never had. I enjoy watching their relationships between each other, and how the support system is budding. The thing I realize is this still leaves a huge gap in the community to support us while we raise them. I guess that wasn’t part of the algorithm I initially devised.

In the absence of the village I have known the isolation and sadness from having minimal supports. I have relied on social media to have any  feeling of connection to other adults. I have lived the stress of paying for daycare literally anytime I needed help, and in turn had to work more hours away from my family to afford it. I have added a layer of scrutiny to my own expectations of myself that are completely unrealistic because presentation on the internet is very different from real life. I have forgotten how to socialize, how to let someone in my home without being reluctant and profusely apologize because of the mess. I have felt guilty for asking for help. I have beat myself up that I literally can’t do everything. This winter I was driving 70 miles IN TOWN to drop kids off at all their activities on Tuesdays because I had no village to help. I miss meaningful conversation and have replaced it with mindless debates about which organic fruit pouches are most acceptable to buy. I have especially missed the support of a community in this endless race for fundraising, so that I may impact the life of a most desperate child. I have offered community to other people, and been questioned about my intentions. I myself have fallen into the trap of leaning on virtual reality to comfort me.

I see kids on cellphones and Ipads at restaurants, in the store, at the park. Instead of engaging our kids and pulling ourselves out of this virtual reality of selfies and instant gratification, we allow them to avoid practicing social skills of actually interacting with someone face to face, helping each other when we need help, WAITING for a reply to a question. If we don’t know how to socialize and have meaningful conversation, what will happen to the next generations?

In the absence of the village I have attempted to find one. I’ve joined clubs, churches, mom’s groups, and volunteered. I’ve been a good friend, and here and there I’ve added another person or two that I can call family. I have also come to realize that some of the relationships I had spent so much time on, turned out to be nothing but superficial. People can’t love you deeper than they love themselves, and with the self perpetuation of the 30 something village-less woman, we have much more blame than love for ourselves.

We need to realize we aren’t inadequate, we aren’t a failure. Jane’s house isn’t literally perfect every day. No one wants to put on the internet what a hot mess they are. No one wants to admit they can’t do the work of an entire village. No one should have to.

Instead of judging each other for all these meaningless differences, try embracing each other’s need to belong, to be supported, to be heard. Stop caring if your friends vaccinate or breastfeed, it not your circus, and those aren’t your baby monkeys. It costs a candle nothing to share its light. Be the light to ignite love in your community. You gain nothing by making people feel bad, you gain everything by building a community of people that problem solve together, co-exist through differences, and support each other to no end. That is a community can change the world. Use your energy to build people, not tear them down.

People won’t remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel. I want to make sure people remember I made them feel good. I really appreciate my new friends at HostUkraine for making me feel positive.

This week my step-daughter arranged a lemonade stand with her friends to help us in our struggle to raise hosting fees for Alina. She has seen us working so very hard through our own struggles to build a longer table, not a higher fence. She rallied her friends together to help her family raise money to change the life of a girl she’s never met. She worked through the day with her friends for a cause for which she had no personal gain. Through this act of service she experienced the joy of giving. She and her friends felt the feelings of holding someone else’s needs above their own. Each of these girls will have satisfaction when they see Alina smile that they played a part in the village that changed this girl’s life. They are a sweet group of kids, and through watching her parents lacking a community she has answered the calling to fill the void beyond her maturity level. She and her friends have identified a need and done what was within their power to help the village grow. What if everyone was so inspired to help someone else? It only cost them an afternoon, and it made me feel supported. Maybe it is time to ask ourselves the question “what can I do to make someone feel connected”. Maybe it’s dropping off a meal to a busy family, maybe its offering to babysit for an afternoon, maybe its washing laundry for a new mom, maybe it’s donating 10.00 to someone’s fundraiser and skipping your starbucks today. Next time someone wants to help you, LET them. People don’t want to help you out of pity, but an attempt to participate in your life. ASK for help, GIVE help when it’s needed. Make plans to share meals with another family. Bring back community.

Children will become who you are, so be who you want them to be. This is our chance to bring back the village, for ourselves, for our children.

Positivity spreads like wild fire. Can I ignite yours?

Consider sharing our fundraiser, help us change the world for one girl.

 

 Stephanie is a nurse, mother, and advocate. Learn more about the Howe family Here.