A friend of mine referred to the saying "It takes a village to raise a child" the other day. She was discussing how she felt that the "village" idea has become more cutthroat, if you will. Instead of a village working together, she felt like the village was now in competition. Each villager was more worried about their own child being seen as better than someone else's child than helping another villager with raising his/her child. She felt like instead of the village working together, it had become more of a system of trying to "one up" the other person. Instead of cooperation, it was now competition.
I've been mulling her comments over since then. I'm not sure if I agree 100%, but I think there has been a significant change to our "village." Our villages have broken down, that I firmly believe. We no longer look to those around us for help or support - or even in times of celebration. I think that there are many reasons that have led to this change, just a few being our increasing mobility as a culture (how many of us really live nearby our family and original hometowns?), the accessibility of information (like the internet), the seemingly emphasized reliance on "expert" opinions (just turn on any tv news program!), and more than anything else, our "on demand" lifestyle.
Our society seems to have turned away from true, personal fellowship and relationship. Now, we live in a world that can be instantly connected at the touch of a button. While this may seem to be a good development - we can "talk" to people far away from us at any time - I'm wondering if this has actually impeded our ability to form a village. The talking points seem to convince us that this way is better - we can form our village based on shared beliefs and preferences, and it can be bigger than before. But does that really happen? We may have formed groups or communities online that are made up of people who DO share our opinions and beliefs...but what accountability do we have to them and our relationships with them? We sign on when it is convenient to our lives and our preferences, and we can push it aside when it isn't. Our villages have become "on demand," just like our TV and other media.
I'm just as guilty at this as anyone else - I do have an online community that I love being a part of, and I, too, only sign on when it is convenient for me and only spend as much time on there as doesn't interfere with my "regular" life. There isn't the need to stop what I'm doing because so-and-so called or stopped by, like in years past. I don't have to give anymore - I can only take if I want to. I try not to - this particular group is unlike any other I've tried to join, where members do and will reach out to others outside of the online forum. They do keep each other accountable, in many different ways, but it is still easy to push that aside by simply closing the computer. You can't do that to your next-door neighbour. (although I'd like to on some mornings when my next-door neighbour starts his sports car to warm up in the driveway and wakes my children!)
Last night, however, I had the opportunity to join a couple of friends to start a prayer group. We're each feeling a need for something different, and came together for various reasons, but when I sat back and reflected on our gathering this morning, I realized that we're all longing for the same thing: a village. The reasons for starting this group were many (knowledge, fellowship, community, spiritual needs, support, and many others), but when you look at what we listed as our desires, it all boiled down to this: we are longing for a village. A village in which we learn, we're supported, we are able to give support, and where we can build relationships with other people.
I'm still contemplating this idea of a "village" and what it means for me today, but I think one thing I've figured out since the original comment was made. I've figured out that a village doesn't magically appear anymore - we're living in a very fluid society, one that often is too big to have an inherited village. We're not living in small farm towns anymore, where our village membership is pretty much set in stone. Because of this change in our environment over the past hundred years or so, it is up to us to develop and nurture our village. We can't be a passive member anymore - we need to actively participate in the village if it's going to work.
So, I ask - do you have a village?