Updated: Feb 25, 2019
How we can begin to make a village wherever we are.
Nothing grows alone. Yet, this modern world with its crazy-fast pace, its constant demands and the head spinning effects of rapidly changing technology, can make us feel very alone. Raising children in this world is more challenging than ever.
I'd like to borrow the image of sun, soil and water feeding a seed, to suggest that we can draw strength and support from our surroundings, just as the seed does. The saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child." I'd like to suggest we begin to make a village wherever we are. Does this sound strange? Imagine a single seed. All alone. It seems unlikely that it could ever grow. Tiny and Isolated as it is. The seed needs the sun, soil and water. The sun to warm it, the soil to feed it and the clouds to water it. It draws strength from the world around it
We need to feel supported by our environment
Just as the seed is. It helps if we begin to see that the actual world around us is like a village. The actual physical places you go to, the people you see on a regular basis, are all part of your village.
The soil is the ground we walk upon, the physical village. It is familiar, safe and known. These are the physical places in your life. A cafe, a park, a playground, a river, or stream. The local museum. The Library. Your local shop. The places that you regularly go to are the ground of your village. Cherish these places. Smile at the people who work there. Say hello. Get to know the people who also go to these places. As your child sees and hears you connecting to the village, this village that is made up of the local places you go to, they too will feel safe. Your child senses when you feel safe. Your feeling of safety gives them permission to feel safe also. The places you visit, especially those that you go to regularly are the ground of your village. You can begin to take care for the ground of your village. Just by noticing it, by being grateful for it, and by making simple connections with people.
The water in your village is the Art you live with. The music, songs, stories, films, colours, textures, and shapes that fill your life. These are art. What are your favourite songs? What songs do you sing around the house? Do you have favourite objects? A car, a chair, an item of clothing that you love. Your child is watered by the art in your life. No, you don't have to rush off to an art gallery. This is about the colours, sounds and shapes in your world. Spend time in nature. Nature is the greatest artist of all. Go to the park at sunset. Touch the bark of tress. Children love to play with leaves and sticks. This is art. Taking care of a house plant, or loving a pet are simple ways of being with nature. This waters your child. Children love the beach. Last night I saw a man fishing at sunset with his wife and daughter off Boscombe beach. They had some wind breakers up, and had made a little camp on the beach. I nodded at the fisherman as I walked past, and then his daughter peeped her head out with such pride and joy on her face. She belonged, she was safe, help in the arms of this fishing trip. Art draws our attention. Our attention loves beautiful things. Where is your attention drawn? Through this fishing trip at sunset this family drew their attention to the sea, to the sunset and to each other. This is deeply nourishing for a child. Notice the Art in your life. Spend time in Nature.
The sun shines on everyone. Rich and poor. Cruel or kind.
It makes no difference to the sun. Gratitude is the ever present sun. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, you can take a moment and feel gratitude. It will warm you. Gratitude is ever warming. We all have a ton of things to be grateful for. I put my back out a few days ago, and couldn't even get my socks on this morning. I was in too much pain. I was in danger of feeling sorry for my self, and sinking into despair. Thankfully, I caught it in time. I was grateful that I could breathe, walk, still think. The feeling of gloom shifted. I thought of a friend who is paralysed, and only has the use of her arms and neck. How on earth does she manage to smile and be happy? I marvel at her gratitude. Every day, no matter where you are, or what's happening, take time to name and notice what you are grateful for. Gratitude is the sun that warms our hearts, and gives us strength. Gratitude feeds courage. Together they offer shelter. Imagine resting under a mighty oak tree. Feeling safe and protected under its branches. Gratitude offers this protection. Your child will be warmed by your attitude of gratitude. They will notice your appreciation for the things in your life. Your attitude of gratitude is their teacher. Start today. Be grateful for something. Notice it. Name it.
Nothing grows alone. Even a seed needs the sun, soil and water. We too can grow in the sun, soil and water of our own world. It begins with noticing. The people, places, and things that make up our village. Then we feed our noticing with gratitude. Gratitude is fertilizer for the soul. All good things grow from it. The saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child." Today we must make our own village. That sounds tough, a challenge, but thankfully the village is already there. All we have to do is start to notice. It begins today with gratitude.