I wrote one such article myself and Pathways to Family Wellness actually published it. But I didn’t write it as a sort of curse to the world and what it’s become. I actually wrote it as part of creating a vision for ‘It Takes A Village…’ the community support initiative I started in East Auckland. It wasn’t something I wrote to say “there’s no village these days, oh well”. I wrote it because I needed something to look at every time I lost sight of why I was bothering to try. It was my hope that ‘It Takes A Village…’ would create more connection and community where I lived and I’ll admit, I had some success but I learned quickly that this was a vision I couldn’t create alone.
What I found was that the mums of my community were thirsty for connection. I tested the waters with a sort of “hey anyone want to join an initiative where we all do what we can to help each other out?” – the Facebook group had over 100 members within a day. This was one of those typical Bron moments where I leaped without looking. Suddenly I had all these members I thought to myself “yes Bron, they’re here – now what are you going to do with them all?” Of course I assumed they joined because they wanted to meet each other and start creating that village we all longed for. “Woo hoo!” I said. “Let’s all meet at the local beach for a picnic and connect”. Off I went ready to embrace my local sisters and I was met with deafening silence. One mum came, one. Lauren Hill who I love and miss terribly.
I came to the realisation that yes, we want the village but we don’t want to do the work of creating and building the village. This is true for so many societal disorders. We sit around saying “someone needs to do something!” Yes we do. We have to be brave. Really, really brave. It takes huge amounts of courage to let down your guards (just a little, easy does it!) and allow people into your homes and hearts. To share vulnerable stories. To hear vulnerable stories. To refrain from judgement. To accept people as they are despite not understanding why they say or do the things they do.
Most of us live in a time poor world. We have no time! We need to run on the treadmill of life just to keep everyone fed and clothed. Changing how we function as a community could gift us more time but it would mean reconsidering how we relate to each other and how we do things. For example, food is free if we grow it ourselves. Water is free if collect it ourselves. If we foster relationships with the people on our street we can share resources. How many lawnmowers are there on one street? How many ladders? Who’s throwing out something somebody needs? How could we know if we haven’t ever said hello to each other?
You see, the reason I called the initiative ‘It Takes A Village…’ was not because I didn’t know the rest of the proverb is ‘to raise a child’. It’s because I actually believe it takes a village to do a lot of things. It takes a village to take care of our elderly, to help struggling families, to take care of our environment. In essence, what I felt was that it takes a village to create a village. I wanted to foster the village mindset. I targeted the initiative towards mums because being a mum is my field of expertise. I had hoped that over time the initiative would grow to include all members of the community. I also started with mums because they are hugely influential, much more than they realise. And mothers working together? Oh the mountains they’d move.
And now I’m in Dunedin and I’m at it again. You can take the girl out of the village etc. I think it wont matter where I live, I will always be driven to create community and connection. Especially for mums and people who mother (see my previous blog). Because I think deep in our DNA we know that we are supposed to gather. It’s like we’ve got amnesia and just have this faint memory that we are stronger when we support each other. It’s why, I feel, coffee groups are so common and yet many mums feel unsatisfied with them. Because some coffee groups have become a distant cousin to the true, deep, healing nature of women coming together to share their hearts with each other. To practice the art of listening – deeply to each other. Where we feel no need to give advice because we know that a woman speaks her troubles to clear her chaotic thoughts and feelings and access her own innate wisdom that waits calmly to rise once the path is cleared. It’s because of this that I’m creating my own heart circle programme because I know that’s where magic happens.
And I’ve learned my lesson that it’s not up to me to organise a whole community. To bring them together say “right you lot – love each other”. My job is simple. To live and breathe community, caring, connection, empathy and acceptance. To reach out again and again. To open my home again and again. More than anything I say, or write – my lived example will be what creates the most impact. We all hold that power. Our lives are the very ripples that grow to create waves of change. Our awareness of the lack of a village must lead, eventually, to our accountability of its demise and our responsibility to pick up hammer and nails and build the community we want.
Bron (village builder)