Friday, February 5, 2010


"It takes a whole village to raise a child" African Proverb ???

Here are some similar sayings from different cultures - "A single hand cannot bring up a child", "One hand cannot hold a baby".
When I was Googling to find where this week's quote came from I first found that it was claimed as an old African proverb, but quickly found most writers who had researched the quote's background, were not sure if its origin was African at all.

One of these writers, made the following comment.
"I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. In my neighbourhood the houses were side-by-side along a city block. Our block was a 'village' when I was growing up. Old Mr Johnson, who lived across the street monitored our activities throughout the day while my single-parent mother worked. If we got too rowdy, Mr Johnson would get us in line from his front porch. We knew we were loved and protected. How do we re-embrace that aspect of community that makes us feel loved and protected, in the twenty-first century?..."

Another writer said, ..."did someone miss a point? African culture does not begin with the individual....but with the group. The group exists, therefore I am. This proverb was not made up, it is a reality."

A third writer thought the "village" today was the family, and another made the statement that it "did not refer to a large group of unrelated strangers, but a small group."

Regardless of where the phrase came from, I think there are some stimulating points it provokes us to think about.
The two words "whole village" speaks of a varied group of people - different occupations
- different ages and generations, parents, along with grandparants, aunties and uncles, sisters and brothers, friends.

A village of the past, held similar attitudes, values, beliefs... they were connected. This is what bound the village together. There was an automatic responsibility they felt to be part of the lives of village children. The first writer mentioned this when he spoke about growing up in Detroit.

I have always found the saying "it take a whole village to raise a child" extremely attractive. I think that as people, both my husband and I have lots of gifts that are worth handing on to our kids, but there are many areas of life that neither of us know much about. We need our neighbours, respected friends as well as our extended families, to have imput into the lives of our children.

The first writer I quoted asked an excellent question. "How do we re-embrace that aspect of community that makes us feel loved and protected, in the twenty-first century?" He isn't complaining, waiting for someone to solve a problem for him. He realizes that we need to "re-embrace"= go back to practicing things as they were done in the past, in the "village".
As the last writer I quoted said, we don't need "unrelated strangers" putting in extensive time with our kids, they need to be connected with people who have similar attitudes to us.
The second writer has a point too. Maybe we have missed the point - our eyes have become fixed on the child, their needs, their future.... and in doing this we have lost our perspective, lost seeing the importance of the "village" or community of which they are part.

I hope you have some ideas from reading this of what you can do THIS WEEK WITH THE KIDS to connect them into your "village". You could also take up the challenging perspective of making them aware of their "village" and less mindful of themselves.

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