When our family village is not built on biology
We’ve probably all at some time or another heard the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”. It’s been attributed to everyone from the writers of Proverbs (in the Bible) to Hillary Clinton. I came across it again today and it got me thinking that we could extend the sentiment, because the need for a village, whatever that might look like, doesn’t stop at the end of childhood.
I’m a staunchly independent woman. Some might say a little too independent and, truth be told, some might be right on that one. But lately I’ve recognised my need for community and the relationships we find there. I need that mother figure. You all know the one — she’ll tell you that you look pale and ask if you are eating properly and getting enough sleep. She might spoil you at Christmas-time, or any other time the fancy takes her, for that matter. She’s your biggest cheerleader, and the first to have the tough conversations with you too.
Sometimes she brings with her someone who is like a father figure, although he might arrive through a different avenue.
He’s the one who tells horrible dad jokes, but you laugh along because, as bad as they might be, dad jokes are always hilarious … although that could be just me! He’s possibly going to lecture you about rotating your car tyres and shakes his head when you shrug your shoulders and mumble something about the last service.
You might acquire an older sister or two. They give amazing advice — whether you’ve asked for it or not. They’ll tell you if that haircut suits you, and definitely when that potential significant other doesn’t! They’ll likely share their home with you at times, an untold number of meals, and allow you to play aunty to their kids — which is a whole new kind of awesome.
If you’re lucky your village might have some younger sisters to mentor, and annoying brothers, and a wild aunty or three. Because sometimes that’s what family looks like, right? Maybe our village is built on biology, but often it’s not. I think for most of us, our village is made up of all the family that we choose for ourselves along the way. It’s all the people we get to love and be loved by for no other reason than the fact that we do.
It’s not always easy to come by. Some of us need to look a long time before we find it. Maybe it’s at school, or work, or the place we live. Or it might even be the folk we encounter at church — that’s where I’ve found most of mine over the years. We’re an unlikely village in some ways, spread widely across Australia, and some of my sisters are even across the ditch in New Zealand. But we’ve loved and laughed and cried, and at the centre of it all is Jesus, right in the middle of our village.
We argue occasionally about politics and religion and climate change, and whether pineapple belongs on pizza. At times we might even argue about Jesus, what Jesus had to say about life, the world, the way we live, and what it means for us to be people of faith. There’s room for that too. Because if anyone taught us how to keep loving, whether we agree with each other or not, it was Jesus.
So, I think as much as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village for you and me to just be us. Oh, and by the way — pineapple totally belongs on pizza!
Belinda Cassie is a Salvation Army chaplain with the Salvos’ Inner City Social Mission, Sydney.