There is a lot of views on the quote, “it takes a village to raise a child” (thought to originate from an African proverb). Some would and have argued that it “doesn’t take a village, it takes a family” (Dole, 1996). And I’m just going to straddle the fence and say that it actually takes both.
One doesn’t have to look far to see the benefits of strong families. Many will quote that those raised in families have lower rates of substance abuse, high academic achievement, stable relationships in future generations, and better psychological well being. Does that mean that those raised in stable families don’t ever have problems or issues? By all means no, and there are 1000s of stories about how despite a strong and loving family a number of things went wrong. And on the flip side, there are 1000s of stories of those that were raised in messy and broken families and have gone on to live amazing lives and contribute to others and society in ways that others never will. And so a “strong family” is not a shoe in to success, but for many it lays a strong foundation.
On the other side of the equation one can see the benefits of strong communities. Many of us have grown up hearing about our parent’s generation when not only did they have their parents watching out for them but everyone in town knew them and watched out for and disciplined when appropriate. And yet I kind of stand amazed as our yards and land have gotten smaller and we have squeezed more houses and people into an area of land, many of us do not know who our neighbors are or would allow our kids to ride their bikes around the block without a parent close by. We have become more and more isolated. No longer are grandmas telling moms and fellow moms tricks and tips to raise a child. No longer are grandfathers taking grandsons out and working in the field alongside each other and not just learning skills but life lessons as well. Instead we all “connect” via social media and get our inspiration from Pinterest. Despite being more plugged–in electronically we are more disconnected from those that we share time and space with.
I think one small area of society where that community still exists and exists to better support the family unit is the church. While many will say that the church today is out of date and disconnected and old fashion, I think there are still some churches today, where true community exists. Not the kind of community where everyone shows up with their best face forward and smile plastered on, but the community where messiness is expected and tears are real and the caring and concern even realer. There are still churches where people aren’t afraid to get in and get dirty with whatever life has thrown your way. I know this because I am part of such a church.
I had the amazing experience last Saturday to be surrounded by a number of close friends, dear members of my church and my mom as they celebrated and prayed over Edric’s pending arrival. These sweet people have prayed for us, helped with fundraisers, encouraged us, and been there when we would go months with no news and no end in sight to this process and are now eagerly awaiting his homecoming as it is just a few weeks away.
It has taken a village to pray this boy home, it has taken a village to prepare us to be the family that we are for Edric because the family he was born into was broken and could not be repaired. Not only does he need a village to raise him, he needs a family too. And he has a family to raise him, because there is a village that loves and supports them.