Thursday, April 11, 2013

Purely Independent Disasters

For almost two decades now (has it really been that long?), conservatives have been reacting to Hillary Clinton's assertion that "It takes a village to raise a child." Although I don't care for Hillary Clinton and I don't trust her motives, I do think the reaction, "I'm the parent, and my kids don't need a village," leaves behind common sense.

I've had seasons of busyness and seasons of loneliness. Both types of seasons bring their own style of "sink or swim" life lessons. You need to learn to be content in either situation, or you'll drive yourself and anyone around you crazy. You need to internalize on one hand that all you really need is God. While on the other, He created you to need and to be needed by others.

A society in which each person is completely autonomous is a society in which selfish convenience becomes the norm. It's also a society that will die out. When Oklahoma had its land run, pioneers started out building their cabins in the middle of their land. It was the best way to protect their rights, but it was a lousy way to live. The loneliness gave way to depression and made life dangerous. Disease and disasters taught the independent pioneers that they needed one another. So pioneers built cabins in corners of lots, so that they each had three neighboring families. These pioneers flourished. If you get a chance to see pictures of pioneers in an Oklahoma museum, you will see a noticeable difference in the faces between the pioneers who lived in community and those who did not.

Did the pioneers decide to give up their land to one another and live as a commune, everyone conforming to each other? No. They kept their family identity and their own lots. They remained individuals, but with the understanding that each individual was important--and not just in a utilitarian sense. The ones that thrived the most didn't just help one another or look out for each other, they also partied together! 

This sense of individuals in community is important for us today. If we destroy the individual for the sake of society, then society loses. "We need each other" doesn't mean, "We need to be all exactly alike." There are things that I cannot do. There are gifts I do not possess. I can train myself to do some things. I can educate myself about others. But I only have one lifetime. I need other people, and I need them to not be exactly like me.

And my kids need other people too. Parenting is so much easier in an environment that sees children and their proper growth as important, rather than seeing children as irritants or mini-adults. I don't want people to raise my kids for me, but I think communities play an important part.

Although geographically and culturally diverse in where they grew up, my parents and my husband's parents had in common this virtue in their experiences: consideration. There was an ethic of everyone looking out for everyone else. Yes, there were busybodies in each community, but being a busybody wasn't the goal. Was it Utopia? No. But there was a greater sense of justice along with the desire to protect the innocent and to help whenever needed. The goal was to have a thriving community for young and old.

I get it when friends say, "Kids don't need a village, they need parents." When "village" is interpreted as "government institution," I totally agree with my friends. But to be completely honest, our family does need a village of sorts. God forbid we repeat the mistakes of pioneers long ago and become purely independent disasters.

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