“It takes a village to raise a child.”
Everyone has heard this saying, and everyone probably agrees. I still want to talk about it…so just grin and bear the trite beginning, because I think there’s some new goodness to be found in it.
I have a 16 month old godson. He’s the greatest. He’s happy-go-lucky and smart. Everyone who meets him instantly loves him. His parents are part of my “village” here in college, so we do many social events together. They bring FJ with them often, which no one minds because he’s already one of us, even at such a young age. But it has really hit me at the last couple of events he’s attended, that it doesn’t matter where he is, he is always being looked after by everyone. It’s not just his parents that are trailing him around, it’s everyone. Whoever we meet or spend time with happily becomes part of the FJ “monitoring,” not that he needs much, he’s a fairly independent kid.
For instance, on Saturday night I had roughly 20 people in my house, and every time I saw FJ he was talking to or being held by someone else. He “read” to people, he helped people grill, he helped them plug or unplug their various cell phones, and he definitely helped cook and eat all the food possible. Not only does his parents bringing him to things enhance his social skills, it also gives them a chance to be blessed with an assurance that they aren’t solely responsible for chasing after him.
Everyone helps, because he’s one of us and we love him.
I’d like to suggest that it doesn’t’ only take a village to raise a child…it takes a village to just be.
This is where I insert another trite saying about how “I don’t know who I’d be without my friends,” but I legitimately mean it. I have made many mistakes, taken wrong turns, fumbled through conflicts, but I manage to come through it by the grace of God and the love of my friends and family (those things are not mutually exclusive). If it was just me out here in this Post-modern world, I wouldn’t be able to pull through what I have already overcome. It takes a village for emotional support, yes, but also sometimes just to make dinner come together.
Saturday was an Oktoberfest party. I planned out pretzel bites, various dips, pumpernickel, potato salad, potato pancakes, chicken schnitzel, pork schnitzel, sauerkraut, bratwursts, kielbasa, two types of cheese strudel, apple pie, and black forest cake. One cannot do that alone, especially if the food is going to taste good and be fresh. I had wonderful friends bake the desserts and other baked goods, as my oven is temperamental and bakes unevenly.
But I thought with careful planning I’d be able to handle the rest alone.
Thank the good Lord I had two amazing helpers ALL DAY Saturday, who were graciously at my beck and call. They stood alongside me in the kitchen washing, peeling, slicing, dicing, tenderizing, boiling, mixing, whipping (as in, just with a whisk!), cleaning, organizing, and keeping me sane with simultaneously deep and hilarious conversation.
By 45 minutes before go-time we thought we had it handled…then a breaker went…in the kitchen.
The fridge, water heater, stove, and all the kitchen outlets went down. We had 10 pounds of raw chicken and pork in sitting in the dead fridge waiting to be breaded and deep fried. After much breaker flipping, nothing happened, and guests began arriving. I was in full panic-mode. But again, thank God I was surrounded by people who rose to the occasion.
Some of them moved the deep-fryer into the living room and began a relay system: a breader in the kitchen, a runner, and a fry cook.
Someone else managed to get the circuits working again. Another guest started frying the potato pancakes without being asked: he just took it over. It all came together: hot, fresh, delicious, authentic, and 100% a group effort.
I had a grand plan to have everything done precisely by 7pm, when people were supposed to arrive. I had friends show up early ready to help, and I had friends that were problem solvers when I was too absorbed with how this was not working out the way I had envisioned.
The rest of the evening was filled with glorious laughter, great food, conversation, dancing, and such a love among everyone that it was palpable in the air. Mind you, this wasn’t a village who’d known each other for decades. Some of us had only known each other for 2 years, or 2 minutes.
But between the food, the kid, and the compassion for one another, what we experienced that night was something special.
It was a beautiful reminder that who we are is defined, yes, by what we do, but also with whom we do it. I am who I am because of the influences in my life, for better of for worse. Okay, just for the better. 😉
FJ will become who he is because of who he’s with, and how they treat him.
I think if he’s with this village, he’ll turn out pretty okay.