Building Community

We have all heard the expression “it takes a village to raise a child.”  Although many think the phrase was coined by Hilary Clinton, it actually dates back to an old African proverb and, then, a 1994 children’s book by that title, in which a young African girl searches for her younger brother, only to find that the rest of the village had been watching over him as she searched.
It’s a good idea to really think about this phrase, which we have all used at one time or another, and ponder what it means to us.  Those of us raising children in today’s world know that it’s a far more complicated world than it was when we were our children’s ages.  Technology is completely different and advanced, of course, but mostly we’re all just busier.  Most of us fondly recall playing outside in the streets as children – playing “kick the can” or “capture the flag,” holding meetings of tree house and back alley “clubs,” buying nickel ice cream cones from the ice cream truck and just hanging out.  We all came home when it got dark and the street lights turned on or when we heard our moms calling out down the street, not on our cell phones!  Certainly a world different from the one in which we live in today, where kids are involved and busy in so many sports and other activities during most of their free time, more moms have careers and everything is just more fast-paced and complicated.
Because of the nature of today’s world, it’s even more important that we all band together to give meaning to the words “it takes a village.” Things like sharing ride responsibilities, rooting for each other’s kids, lending a helping hand, making dinner for a friend’s family when it would be helpful and appreciated… all of those things are ways we can foster a sense of “village,” where we each have each other’s back and support one another.
I was reminded of all of this when one of our kids had an unfortunate stressful and upsetting experience with his school carpool, because the mom was either unwilling to go the extra mile or didn’t seem to “get it.”  It’s a long story (involves some crucial items that were accidentally left in the car and the carpool mom didn’t get them back quite in time for an important audition), but suffice it to say, it was more negative than it needed to be with a lot of yelling, crying and unnecessary stress.  I, as well as many of the other moms I know, would have handled the situation differently, going into “problem solving mode,” treating any of the kids as if they were our own and doing whatever we needed to do to help whichever kid it was with whatever problem it was.
Interestingly, Israeli life on a kibbutz is a true example of the expression “it takes a village.”  Based on the ideals of common ownership of the means of production and consumption, shared general responsibilities and mutual help, a kibbutz is “village” in the true sense of the word. While there may be some disadvantages, so many advantages are inherent in this way of life, including parents being closer to their families; less need to make daily trips to the grocery store, schools or shopping; less fear of food or water shortages; less risk of financial insecurity and a sense of productivity among workers who may have been out of work.  Sharing the responsibilities as well as the joys of daily life provides a true sense of community, where someone always “has your back” and offers support and help.
Although it would be a whole different world if we all lived on kibbutzim here in our community of Irvine, in some ways I think it would be so much better.  Gone would be the competitive spirit and the desire to “one up” your neighbor, to be the best and have the most.  We’d all be equal, sharing work and pleasure, sharing joy and struggles as we all journey together and navigate the tricky waters of parenting to raise our children to be independent, productive, happy contributors to society.  We would be a village.

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