Living as a Village in an Individualistic Society (Part 2 of 2)

*If you did not get a chance to read Part 1, you can do so here.

A Swedish proverb, “Honor the house in which you were born, the tree that gave you shade, and the village where you were raised,” reflects the view of a village mentality being beneficial. Within my first post, I noted my views on the village mentality versus an individualistic one. In today’s post, I’m providing concrete examples of how people can live in a village while residing in an individualistic society.

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Will you stay behind the door, or will you enter out into the world and interact with those in the village?

Parking for me and none for you. In the recent weeks, our area experienced a snowstorm which lead to parking spaces needing shoveled throughout our city. Our family opted to buy a house that includes a driveway; however, not all of the houses on our block have driveways so some people must parallel park (note-worthy to mention the street is only one block long, so people do not have to walk very far when visiting homes on this ONE block). After parking spaces were shoveled out, the next week displayed an example of how we could have functioned more as a village than individuals. Snow was piled between some parking spaces, thus limiting the amount of spaces available on the street. I noticed over several days that as a guy would leave his house in the morning, his wife would drift her car forward in an effort to block off both of the parking spots so that no one else could park there all day. Now, I understand that people want a place to park when they arrive home, but here are a few of the issues that I have with that individualistic mindset: it is selfish, the guy is very young and physically capable of walking a few more feet if the spot is occupied when he comes home later that day, one of these spots is actually in front of our property and this family didn’t actually do any of the shoveling that many others completed when the storm occurred. A village mindset embraces looking out for one another and helping each other, even before one’s self.

With your eyes fixated on your screen, you miss opportunities to interact with strangers in-person. The other day I was walking with Little One in our local mall before the stores opened in an effort to get in some extra exercise. Sometimes, I do send a few texts during these trips or perhaps answer a phone call; however, overall, I simply walk

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A “stranger” who became a friend.

through the halls with my hands on the stroller as Little One and I interact with each other and individuals that pass by us. This is an intentional practice and it has led to many positive interactions with strangers throughout the weeks. One such example was with a lady who would be celebrating her 65th birthday the following day. She stopped me (never did figure out why) to ask if I knew the mileage of the entire mall. I responded that I did not have that information. If I had chosen to be wrapped in a screen, the lady may have chosen to stop someone else. Likewise, I may have been so distracted by my screen that I may have (intentionally, or unintentionally) ended the interaction at this point. In my effort to be part of a village, I continued to engage in conversation with this woman and learned about her birthday and her twin granddaughters. We exchanged a few stories as Little One also added to the discussion. After about ten minutes, I was unable to answer her initial question; however, I was able to meet a kind lady, to hear some enjoyable memories, and to model for Little One the value of interacting with our village. A village mindset creates and develops opportunities for strangers to interact with one another in person and to grow from those experiences.

Give me, give me, give me. America is a blessed country where there are many resources available for people throughout the country. In a way, I think this blessing has gone too far and has damaged our society. I do openly admit that I may have a biased view of this topic since I have mainly lived in cities where these resources appear to be more readily available than in more rural areas. That being said, I am speaking of what I have seen while living in cities. Many non-profit organizations, religious groups and

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Little One learning to GIVE of his time to help others.

government-funded agencies have the resources to provide people with many supports such as free food, nearly free rental space, very inexpensive utility bills, and many free items for families with children (i.e. coats, school supplies, sneakers, meals, carseats, clothing, school uniforms, strollers, formula…). I admire that organizations are helping families that may need help, yet I am also discouraged by the amount of entitlement and waste that I have seen over many years. I know of a lady who was recently excitedly sharing with me about how she doesn’t have to pay any of her old nor new medical bills, nor the majority of her food expenses, along with other items such as two brand-new carseats. It is nice that her family was given these free resources from local agencies; however, I also know the high level of her husband’s salary and that did make me bitter (that’s not a good thing, I’m just being honest). It appears that our individualistic society has determined that they will suck in everything that is free and then also purposefully seek more free things, even when it is not NEEDED. There’s a difference between NEEDING resources, and choosing to take free things because you can. I do not believe that a purpose of these opportunities is for members of society to take when they choose to repeatedly make poor financial decisions (and how does one learn a lesson when they are rewarded for poor financial choices?). People should not repeatedly take free things just because they can. SOMEONE is paying for these resources (commonly taxpayers). It appears we have lost the cognitive understanding of the difference between needs and wants. As a result, we have become so intertwined in our individualistic wants, that we hurt the overall effectiveness of a village, along with decreasing members’ willingness to reach out to help because it is just expected that someone else will help – we lose the sincerity and the authenticity in helping one another during realistic times of need because the ‘give me’ mentality has taken over and desensitized us as a whole. A village will support each other and pull together to meet genuine needs; as a result, those opportunities will be warmly valued as they unite and benefit the entire community.

“He sure is busy/talkative/not shy.” These statements have been made to me on many occasions during the past several months of Little One’s life. I’m not sure if it is due to a decreasingly in-person interactive society, or what may be the cause, but Little One’s engagements with others tend to lead to these statements being made. At times I take offense to these comments and I drive home questioning if my child should be less social

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Little One being his social, lovable self.

with others, but at the end of the day, I stand behind how we are parenting him. Yes, my son does like to talk to strangers. Yes, my son will greet you with a handshake and a “hello.” Yes, my son will walk over and sit on your lap as if everyone understands that’s code for, “Okay, you can read me a book now.” Yes, my son will tell you all about the buses he saw during our car ride. Yes, my son will pass out rattles to every child in attendance at the library. Yes, my son will give all of his toys to someone he hasn’t even met. This is my child’s personality and I love every inch of it! I do notice that many children prefer to stare at an electronic devise instead of talking to a human. I do notice that some children quietly sit and just stare at the world around them. Then there are also kids who cry if a stranger begins to talk with them. But this is not who God designed my child to be (he surely didn’t get this social trait from his Baba or I!). It’s like Little One already sees the world as a village. He wants to engage and interact with everyone around him. He wants to hear others speak, and he wants to share (sometimes even while using two languages at once) with them. Instead of driving home confused or embarrassed, I now drive how with a huge grin because our Little One gets it. He understands that society is about way more people than just him and that we can experience such enjoyment throughout our day through embracing those interactions and seeing where they can lead us. A village mindset looks to learn from those around them and to share experiences together.

Society’s self-imposed never-ending To-Do list. Americans have become so good at expanding To-Do lists. It’s possibly even an art form nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I have my lists throughout my house and I have the type of personality that loves to check items off the list as I go throughout the week. However, there is an area that I have been trying to scale back on and that is when it comes to the aspect of random socialization. Previously, I would avoid social scenes or cut short interactions in an effort to get back to

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Pausing to socialize with others.

my To-Do list. This might include missing phone calls, avoiding eye contact in public places, or justifying in my mind why I could not attend an unplanned social event (afterall, it wasn’t on my To-Do list and I have things to do!). I have now tried to intentionally adjust my mindset. Instead of focusing on my individual To-Do list and all that I “must” get done in that day/week, I am purposefully being more flexible in the area of random social interactions. Yes, pausing to have a conversation with an elderly man as we walk down the sidewalk might make us late to our next task on the list. However, it might also be exactly what that gentleman needed to give him peace in his day. Or it might be the exact opportunity for a teachable moment for Little One that God placed in our path for furthered character development. No matter the case, I have been discovering that life can offer us so much more when we push aside our To-Do list and simply allow for life’s natural interactions to take place. A village mindset places people before tasks.

 

Transitioning from an individualistic mindset to a village mindset is not easy work. It takes purposeful steps and genuine reflection. It is also true that we might not be able to always live in one of those manners, and perhaps it’s not even healthy to always keep to just ONE. Yet, I would argue that society as a whole will function more productively and positively if we lean more towards the village mindset than that of an individualistic one. We can learn and grow from each other. We can gain wisdom from hearing the experiences that others have already been through. We can support and encourage each other when we take the time to authentically invest in one another’s lives. And even though it may be a challenge, our family will continue striving to live as a village, regardless of how individualistic our society becomes.

 

Ahmeli… that we will bridge the gap between individualism and community. What step will you take today to make that happen?

If you like this post, please follow Ahmeli by submitting your e-mail (to the left), sharing on social media, or adding a comment below as we strengthen our tomorrows. Thank you!

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