For quite some time I have struggled with why members of society function in manners that seem somewhat selfish and uncaring. Searching for the reason, I have engaged in many conversations with people from different backgrounds, while pressuring myself to step outside of my comfort-zone. Growing up in the American society has generally lead me down the path that many in my generation (and I’d venture to say even more so with the younger generations) have entered – the path of individualism. We are searching for how to display our uniqueness, how to climb the corporate ladder the quickest, how to gain success in the easiest (perhaps read laziest) manner and at the end of the day, how to get what I want. Years before I became a parent, I believed in the African proverb quote, “It takes a village to raise a child,” yet it was only during the past few years that I actually began to live out that belief.
Before then, as a teacher, I witnessed the differing impacts between a child raised by a village, and one raised without, or even possibly being raised nearly by one’s self. I was so confused because I would see how the youth would act in the neighborhood and adults appeared to ignore inappropriate behaviors. All I could remember is walking through my neighborhood as a kid and feeling like every neighbor was watching me with one hand on their telephone (you know, the landline type that had cords), ready to call my mother the moment I stepped outside of the expectations. Yet as I looked at today’s youth, it seemed as though they were daring any adult to make any statement (and it appears most adults have the “mind my own business” mindset. One I had ascribed to for many years.).
Then as a city girl who was forced (That’s how it felt during those days! These people didn’t even have a traffic light!) into the country scene for a few months at a time, I would question the community’s actions: Why does everyone smile and wave? Do these kids even have a real childhood, or do they just do chores all day? Does anyone out here have a personality? Why does every outing turn into an hour-long conversation with numerous people in whichever store we go to? I just could not understand why “those” were people acting so oddly.
Skipping forward several years, I find myself in an inter-cultural marriage and experiencing the most diverse interactions with non-natives that I’ve ever had. Throughout these experiences, I’ve genuinely had to take a step back and ask myself, “So if you believe it take a village, why are you not acting like a member of a village?” At first I felt saddened and discouraged, mixed with some doubt as to if I had been kidding myself this entire time. Then I realized, I did truly believe the proverb, but I had not lived it out in my personal life (I noticed I did respond more in that mindset within my professional setting while engaging with students; however, even there, I maintained that lifestyle only within my classroom walls and not throughout the building.). This past week, everything boiled down to a simple statement made by my husband. I was questioning something about the way someone responded in a situation (I can’t remember those details. I’ll blame it on pregnancy brain, not old age. ha ha!) and he replied, “That’s because this is an individualistic society.” BINGO! That was it!!! I was constantly comparing a village-style mindset to the behaviors within an individualistic society. The two collide and that is why things weren’t lining up. As this statement followed me through the next few days, I observed many scenarios where one could live out being a village in an individualistic society. Here are just a few:
…Check back to read 5 examples of how we can model a village mentality while living in an increasingly individualistic society….
Ahmeli… that we would remember to live out that which we claim to believe in. Saying it is one thing, living it goes to a whole other level.
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